Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer. I have breast cancer. Now I’m not the type to dwell (or heck, even to say the word breast), but by saying the words out loud I can make them lose their meaning. I can take away the fear. I can take away their power. They will not have power over me. Breast cancer will not have power over me.

Several of you have asked for more details, so here they are. I have nothing to hide. Nothing I did made this happen, and only good can come from talking about it.

I have been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) presents with a variety of symptoms including thickened skin, retracted nipple, mastitis-like inflammation, fever, amd tenderness, and an orange-peel like appearance, in places. It is a fast-growing and invasive cancer. It strikes young women in disproportionately high numbers. Many are diagnosed while pregnant or breast-feeding, as so many of us are in one of those two states at this age. Inflammatory breast cancer does not present with a lump.

I’ll say that again. There is no lump. There is often a star- or diamond-shaped pattern of microcalcifications visible on a mammogram, surrounding cancerous cells, but there is no discrete mass. (The verbal communication between my radiologist and oncologist last Friday was imprecise; the written report confirmed that the affected area is over 2 cm across, not the lump.) The cancer is in my lymphatic system and the breast tissue.

Because of all this, and the liklihood of the cancer spreading to other areas in the body, there are no options when it comes to my treatment. I start chemotherapy next week (the doctor moved it up at today’s visit) and continue for 6 months. If When all goes well, I will have a masectomy to get rid of the diseased skin and tissue.

Today I met with my medical oncologist. She is awesome. I also got hooked up with some local support, including the new D.C. chapter of the Young Survivors’ Coalition, a dietician, the mind-body wellness center, the local Look Good/Feel Good group (wigs! hats! makeup!), even a local massa*ge therapy group who specializes in cancer patients undergoing chemo (free massa*ges!). There are an incredible number of resouces today for the newly diagnosed.

My doctor stayed late today to walk me through the next steps and answer my questions. She gave us material, asked me questions, looked at my chart, prescribed futher pre-chemo tests, and walked us through the probable events of the next week so I’d know what to expect. She even validated my parking. Personally. She winked conspiratorially at me and dug a sticker out of the front desk as we were leaving, since the staff had already left for the day. Now that’s attention to detail!

I have much to do tomorrow, but tonight I need to finish nursing my baby (check!) and get some rest myself. Thank you all for your notes of support. I will not be able to write you each back individually right now, but I take each one to heart. It means the world to me. It gives me strength.

Thanks for your comments! As I’m just beginning my fight against breast cancer, I am particularly sensitive right now and need positive comments and wishes of strength only right now. No pity here!

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74 Responses to Breast Cancer

  1. Amy says:

    You can do it. You can totally do it.

  2. I’m impressed by how quickly the system can mobilize when necessary. I’m also very glad that there are so many resources at your disposal.

    You sound just the way I would have expected: as if you are attacking this head on, directly, forcefully, and wisely.

    Stay strong. And for God’s sake, get a massage. Or six.

  3. flutter says:

    Wishing you strength and cancer butt kicking vibes. You can and will do this. No doubt about it.

  4. canape says:

    Hijack alert.

    As for typing the word breast, yes, you have always been discreet, but it’s better than saying boob cancer.

    Damn IBC. Now I will never enjoy the rootbeer again. Nor will I have fond memories of that ballet thing that descended upon our hometown every year.

    And crap about the lump. I, although it sounds strange I guess, was so happy to hear there was a lump. But okay. Same strong fight, different target.

    Don’t forget Margie-poo’s baseball sized tumor had spread into her lymph nodes too. You will be fine without those lymph nodes. Her left arm swells and she has a pump to help the pressure, but it’s all good.

    I’m totally not buying the exclamation point after the word makeup, by the way.

    Great job on another long day. I’m elated that you like your doctor, that you have found a support group, and that you get to start the first big battle sooner rather than later.

  5. clifford says:

    Um. Team Icee, broken up? I don’t think so. Cancer has no clue whom (or is it “who”…help me out Mrs. Jordan and all your Jots!) it’s up against.

    Clifford H
    Co-founding Member, Team Coke-&-a-bit-of-Cherry Icee

  6. Bon says:

    not having the privilege of knowing you in person, i still wondered at the ! after the word makeup. ;) i defer to Canape in these matters, and feel quite pleased about my suspicions being backed up.

    thanks for letting us know as much as you can. you’re right, you know…it had never occurred to me to put it that way, but stating out loud that there’s nothing you did to make this happen is important. shame and difference are hard things in our society…and words like the ones you’ve used go a long way. thank you.

    so chemo next week – good. it’s your plan, better to start. like Slouching Mommy, i’m glad to see the system mobilizing for you…and i will have you in my heart.

    get some sleep. and as many massages as they’ll allow.

  7. whymommy says:

    Cliffeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

    Everyone, welcome one of my best buds from freakin’ high school! Cliffie, I had no idea you were lurkin’ round these parts!

    (Is that what I have to do to get a note from you these days? Get breast cancer?)

    I kid, I kid. Also, I owe him an email. Or five.

  8. whymommy says:

    And yes, Canape, and bon … you picked up exactly right. I haven’t worn makeup more than five times this year, probably.

    But I’m going to surprise you both. I’m going to let the nice cosmetologists (and Hans, the hairdresser extrodinnaire, whose specialty is those of us with NO hair) fuss over me for a bit and help me learn how to look good without hair. Or eyebrows. Or whatever may come.

    I’ve been looking for a good excuse to get a makeover!

  9. Jen says:

    I don’t know you, but I have been to your site before. I am sending you thoughts of power, strength, courage, love, and above all, healing. You WILL get through this. You’ll get through and help educate women on this rare form of cancer that, sadly, so few know of. You’ve already done that, just by posting and sharing here. How amazing is that? God bless you, and I’m lighting a candle in my office for you. Stay strong!

  10. Stimey says:

    You continue to amaze. I am impressed by the swiftness with which you have taken your ducks and lined them up. And just think about how much cooler a DC summer will be without hair.

  11. Reading your words I can feel the lump, the inflammation, the unwelcome guest being diffused, and it makes me smile for you. I mean ‘diffused’ in that emotional, heart-centered, empowering way – and I feel like this will strengthen you physically. I can tell you already know this too.

    So keep busting that boggart, sweet mama. You’re doing everything right, and we’re all rallying for you. Love and warmth and ass-kicking cheers from Nova Scotia.

  12. Kristin says:

    Definitely thinking about you and wishing you well. Breast cancer is on my mind as I await a needle aspiration and a 27-year-old friend has discovered the return of her own cancer. It’s good for the soul to read your positivity.

  13. Oh, I just don’t have words, I wish that I did, I really did. Just these: HOPE LOVE FRIENDS LIFE LOVE LOVE LOVE HOPE.

  14. clifford says:

    Yes, my friend….I lurk. On request, even.

    We keeps it real with all the former bloods from J-town. Wif spinnaz on our Chevy Celebrity stationwagon ridez too. You should drop me a line when you feel so inclined, woman.

  15. Ally says:

    Hey WM, I’m stopping in by way of Canape’s site. I just wanted to say I’m thinking of you and sending all of my kicking-cancer-in-the-ass thoughts directly your way.

  16. Aliki says:

    Good–action is happening! I agree with what others said–I’m so glad the system is clicking into place and heading forward, full-speed ahead.

  17. Stephanie says:

    I’m sending warm wishes your way. Your attitude is amazing and inspiring. I’m glad you’re able to get moving quickly in your treatment. You will be in my thoughts.

  18. Kim says:

    you are power and grace. you are courageous. you are allowed to feel/think/do whatever you need/ want/dream. you are rich with beauty that has yet to unfold.

    i have a 2.5 year old girl, a son born jan 15 this year, a mom who is a breast cancer survivor . i am 37. i am originally from MD. i am a midwife. i feel connected to your life. i am moved beyond words.

    i keep you cupped in my hands.

  19. Sending you warm wishes and a black-belt in karate for you to kick the crap out of this, which I’m sure you will :)

  20. Kelly says:

    This is the same type of breast cancer that my mother in law had. She was diagnosed in July 2000. Here we are June 2007 almost 7 years to the day later and she is doing fabulous.

    Kelly

  21. canape says:

    I love seeing the survivor comments! Woot!

  22. Wow, that’s great how much support you have and how quickly it’s coming together. And I think it’s essential to share these kinds of stories to raise awareness.

    Your strength rings through the recent posts I’ve read since I came here from Slouching Mom’s a few days ago. Sending you positive healing thoughts…

  23. amanda says:

    Still here. Hanging on your words and sending you an embrace and winds of hope. And I second Slouching Mom, assume the being massaged position!

  24. carrie m says:

    kicking breast cancer’s ass one day at a time. you can do it. much love, many blessings.

  25. Nancy says:

    I think it’s great how open you’ve been about what’s happening with you. The more we all know what to look for, the better a chance we have of stopping new incidences of cancer in their tracks.

    Your strength is inspiring.

  26. planetnomad says:

    Thanks for sharing what’s going on. It helps to spread info.to raise awareness; I had never heard of this kind before. And you have exactly the right attitude going in. I admire you. You’ll have to post pics of you after the makeover! I’m sure you’ll look fantastic! Glad you’ve got lots of support, both in the physical world and from here in the blogosphere. We’re all thinking of you and praying for you!

  27. Spacemom says:

    Okay- That is great that your doctor is moving quickly on things.

    Can I say how glad I am that you mentioned this to your doctor?

    I wish I had some beautiful pithy saying to make you feel good, but instead I’ll say this…
    If you can, take an hour to just be. Not the mommy, not the wife, just be YOU. This news is alot to process and I don’t know how much time you have to process it before the treatments start. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those who love you.
    :)

  28. maggie says:

    You are strong and great. Good luck to you.

  29. Mrs. Chicken says:

    Should you want to, feel free to contact me. My BIL is a Mayo-trained oncologist and he still has many connections at the Mayo Clinic.

    But it sounds like you have wonderful doctors locally.

    I’m here with you!

  30. Oh, The Joys says:

    I imagine this is the hardest thing, the hardest time. I am thinking of you…
    Jessica

  31. Michele says:

    I came over from Mrs. Chicken to say Live Strong and kick cancer’s ass.

  32. Emily says:

    When you have beaten the cancer, please send me your mailing address. I will send you a pickle birthday card on your next birthday.

    Now, if that don’t give you incentive to beat the cancer, what will?

    Thinking of you, sister.

  33. Amy says:

    Talked to my mom this morning, whose good friend had a very aggressive form of breast cancer (not IBC, but something else) several years ago. She said that Bernie would visualize the water washing away the cancer each morning when she showered. She credits her recovery to visualization and never believing that it would beat her.

    You are so strong. You can do this.

  34. MammaLoves says:

    Is that D.C. as in Washington, DC?

    I’d be happy to be Canape’s surrogate–though I don’t know if I’d be able to match her make-up skillz.

    Seriously, I’m in DC if you’d like to do a blogger meet-up.

  35. Em says:

    My MIL has been fighting leukemia for the past 8 months and she is kicking cancer’s ass! AND YOU WILL TOO! Hang tough!

  36. wordgirl says:

    I’m pulling on some steel-toed boots and I’m visualizing myself kicking the ass of the cancer that has come for a visit. Visualize it whimpering in the corner for mercy…unable to limp away. Visualize yourself strong and victorious. You will be.

  37. robbinlynn says:

    For my fellow Scientist-Mommy,

    Inspiration from one of my personal heros:

    http://www.cancerguide.org/median_not_msg.html

    You are in my prayers every day.

  38. Heather! says:

    Sounds like you’ll have a kick-a** team on your side. Onward! Keeping you and your family in my thoughts.

  39. Robin says:

    You know, my heart leapt into my throat the moment you first said that the skin on your breast looked like an orange peel, but now that you know for sure what you are up against I am completely in awe and absolutely inspired by the strength with which you’re facing whatever comes your way. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is what is going to keep you beating this thing.

    And if you decide that you want everyone in the blogosphere to try and simultaneously levitate or something on your behalf, hey, I’m there.

  40. [...] go send positive thoughts and encouragement to whymommy and her [...]

  41. Whymommy, when you first mentioned that your skin had the texture of an orange peel, IBC was my first thought. I didn’t comment at that point because I felt sure that would be your eventual diagnosis, and saying so didn’t seem appropriate. I’m commenting now, though, to say that as certain as I was then, I’m certain now that you will beat this. No need for even a crossed-out “if” : in my mind, only “when” appears.

  42. Melanie says:

    I’m here from Erika (Plain Jane Mom)’s blog to wish you a speedy and victorious fight. You are going to kick cancer’s a**.
    With warmest good wishes,
    Melanie

  43. Jennifer says:

    I’m glad its been caught, I’m sure you’ll be just fine. Also, this is an awesome and informative post, by writing this you may save someones life.

  44. Busy Mom says:

    I’m sorry you have to go through this, but, you sound great, and, ready to kick it to the curb.

    Thank you for the helpful information, too.

  45. karriew says:

    I have an August 2004 kiddo. :)

    If you can manage one of those, plus another little one, you can do anything.

    Thanks for the informative post–like many others, I have never heard of IBC until this afternoon.

  46. Izzy says:

    Hi Whymommy,

    I’m here from Ericka’s blog. I just wanted to tell you your courage and positivity are inspiring and your attitude is going to be such a valuable asset to your treatment. I wish you the very best and will be sending good energy and healing thoughts your way :)

  47. Two words: Fu&k Cancer!!

    You CAN do it, you WILL do it… and we will all be right here with you, Whymommy. Every single step of the way. Promise.

    Sending you all the love and strength I can…

  48. Mary says:

    THANK YOU for posting this, because I had never heard of IBC before now. There’s no doubt in my mind that by writing your blog, you have saved someone’s life.

  49. problem girl says:

    Nothing but the best and very warmest wishes coming your way! Hang in there chickie, you CAN do this!

  50. sherry says:

    I wanted to wish you nothing but the best and all the strength in the world.

  51. Katherine says:

    You can do this! I kicked cancer’s butt myself. So I’m gonna be sort of bossy here for a sec. Gear up! Get ready! And sit by the chatty people during chemo (trust me you may not feel like talking all the time but you need to). Kiss your babies a lot! I just had my first four months ago so when I was going through chemo it was my dog I hugged on. He was as cuddly as can be and that physical affection does so much.

    I hereby loan you my chemo class clown crown (how’s that for alliteration). Use it, make people laugh. Helping them through gives you something to do.

  52. Katherine says:

    Oh, sorry I forgot one thing. Do not use the natural human hair wigs! You’ll roast this summer. Synthetic is the only way to go. Also there are these really cool beaded hat things that make you look like a flapper from the twenties. They look cool and keep you that way.

  53. Your strength is amazing and will totally get you through this crap! Way to go!

  54. I also wanted to let you know that I have a continuous cancer fundraiser going at http://www.cafepress.com/raisemoney. Originally started to support my dad and then my girlfriend who is now completing (yay!) her battle with IBC, I’m going to keep donating as long as people are buying, and we match dollar for dollar. We just made a $400 donation to cancer research!

  55. Jacquie says:

    I found you via many a blog I read.

    Sending you tons of kicking cancers ass vibes!

  56. [...] of my fellow scientist mommies is facing a pretty big thing – which may be an understatement, but I am following her strict no-pity [...]

  57. Sheila says:

    One of the most amazing things I learned from my mom when she went through chemo is how tough women are. There was never any doubt that she would make it. To quote an overused Nike phrase, she “Just Did It.” You have two beautiful precious boys and all the strength that comes with being a mom. You are going to look this in the eyes, stare it down and keep on going.

  58. TB says:

    I’m a new mom too, with a history of breast cancer in my immediate family and two negative biopsies under my belt.
    You are an amazingly strong woman and I know that you are going to do wonderfully and crush cancer under your (super stylish, probably open-toed)shoe like a bug.

  59. Andi says:

    What an amazingly strong and admirable woman you are. My best wishes are with you in your fight.

  60. [...] Breast Cancer [...]

  61. Cool Mama says:

    I know there will always be a place on this earth for such a confident and extraordinary woman like you. It’s because of people like you that our world goes on and life has a meaning.
    Thank you. I am confident you will win this. Count on us for any help.

  62. Melina says:

    J from Othejoys told me about your site and diagnoses, I’m sorry that you have to go through this, but you have the right attitude, I am an 8 year Non hodgkins lymphoma survivor that was told I only had a 15 % chance of living when I was first diagnosed. I have been through it all, chemo, bone marrow transplant and radiaton not to mention all the damn tests and countless worries. If you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to email me. If you need someone to talk to or ask a question. I’m here, I will definitely be back (I’m bookmarking you right now) to see how you are doing. Sending you lots of good vibes and lots of hugs.

  63. urban urchin says:

    Here via Oh the Joys. I will visit often to watch you kick some cancer ass!

  64. Lotta says:

    Here from Oh The Joys – what a strong woman you clearly are. Take picture of your breastfeeding. Try to look at it and remember how your body created and fed a beautiful life. Keep that awesome image in your head when you have to go through everything.

  65. tulipmom says:

    Another visitor from OTJ. You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you face this monster and show it who’s boss.

  66. marinadrive says:

    hello … just “happened” upon your blog via a note ’bout you on thenewgirl’s blog … this is the first time I’ve ever commented on ANY blog … just had to send you good thoughts and prayers from Virginia. I’ll be following your PROGRESS!!!!!!!!

  67. [...] mother-in-law beat IBC 7 years [...]

  68. Peregrine says:

    Found your blog through Robbin Koenig’s (My Level of Awareness). More than 30 years ago, my mom had breast cancer. She beat it then (and thyroid cancer decades later) and is just fine today. One of my coworkers was diagnosed with testicular cancer five years ago; he’s cancer-free today. Another good friend is a breast cancer survivor. Medical science is a phenomenal thing, and the treatments WORK. You’ve got the right mindset, that’s often the toughest part. You’ll do fine. If I may recommend some reading, “It’s Not About the Bike” by Sally Jenkins tells about how Lance Armstrong dealt with his cancer. It’s blunt and eye-opening (he called his cancer “the Bastard”). I think you’ll like it.

  69. M&Co. says:

    Sending good cancer kicking vibes to you!

  70. [...] of coverage of inflammatory breast cancer recently, a “lumpless” form of the disease. This blogger was diagnosed recently, and Catherine covered the topic this week on Voices for [...]

  71. [...] much fun as we had together, I didn’t realize what friends I had in these women until I was diagnosed with cancer.  I didn’t know how to talk about it.  I didn’t know what to do next.  I told one [...]

  72. I had a rough day today. OK breast cancer patients – I have trouble with the word survivor a mere month after mastectomy – have rough days pretty often.

    But I knew that tomorrow was your mastectomy date and to be honest I wanted to read some of what you’d written in the past because we have different forms of breast cancer and you’ve been in treatment so much longer than I.

    My hat’s still off to you for your courage which is far more than I can ever manage to muster. Keep on keeping on .Those babies need you.

  73. amreen says:

    i am extremely moved by your post. you’re a rock star and i know you are so going to conquer this challenge! my thoughts and prayers are with you. thanks for sharing your story.

  74. [...] be ready to start the aloe compresses to prepare the skin for radiation.  Wow.  I try to think positively, but I honestly wasn’t sure we’d make it this far.  This is amazing, and I feel lucky [...]

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