People ask me to describe how I found out that I have this rare cancer. I have read awful stories on the Internet where doctors and women ignored the symptoms of IBC until it was too late. In my case I am not sure when I started to have symptoms. I feel like it may have begun during my pregnancy with Clayton. At first I noticed swelling in my left breast-actually my whole left side. It went away after Clay was born but when he was three months old I noticed the left breast was bigger, had a lot of lumps, and felt hot. I thought that all of these were symptoms of an ordinary breast infection not unlike one that any nursing mom might experience. So I used hot compresses,cabbage leaves, motrin, and eventually antibiotics. None of these relieved my symptoms which kept getting worse. I went to the E.R. at Pennsylvania Hospital on May 5th,2007. They thought I had mastitis as well, but recommended I get an ultrasound of the breast to rule out abscesses. I took my last two finals ever on Monday6th and Tuesday7th. I felt free to focus on my health for the first time in months. I was happy and confident when I went for my ultrasound. When the Dr. remarked that he could find no abscesses, just a thickening of the breast tissue, and that he thought I should go see the breast surgeon, I knew. I asked,” Do I have cancer?”. He said,” I don’t know, but I think we should try to find out right away.” I changed back into my clothing while he made an immediate appointment for me across the street with the breast surgeon. While in the waiting room I noticed a pamphlet on Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I picked it up and read through the symptoms..doing a mental checklist…I have that, I have that, Oh man I have that too! I walked up to the Doctor and said,” I have this.” He said,” oh good you got the pamphlet.” “No, I have this cancer.” He was less convinced than me. I paced the hall for what seemed like hours but was probably more like 30 minutes. I prayed. I called my husband. I read the words..fatal,aggressive,etc. I held in my tears. I met with the surgeon. A wonderful older gentlemen. I told him that I had breast cancer. Deadly bad breast cancer. He said , “Andrea we don’t know that yet.” I said ,”I know. Well at least now I don’t have to pay back my student loans.” He laughed. From that point on I got an immediate biopsy and mammogram. All on the same day. I loved everyone I met. I decided to be nice and try to just laugh about it. Its not that I didn’t feel sad. I did to be sure. But mostly I just thought it was so cliche’. Very Lifetime television. Mom of six finally graduated from college finds out she has deadly cancer the NEXT day? Implausible. I made up a top ten list ala David Letterman. Top ten reasons its good that I have cancer. Some of them are very funny. I let myself cry only a little. I pray. And although I know that the next world is more wonderful than this one, I will hold on dearly and pray for God to let me remain here with my lovely children and wonderful husband. But I won’t be angry or bitter. Life is too short. Especially mine.
How I Found Out