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!