For several months I’ve known something wasn’t right with my body. I’ve had tests, more tests, blood work, scans and more scans. But the damndest thing about Inflammatory Breast Cancer is that it’s called “the silent cancer.” No lump, and very seldom found by the traditional mammogram. Instead, it presents itself in the form of breast inflammation, redness and swelling. Two days after it presented it’s nasty self to me, I went to the doctor and the procedures began. But who knows how long it has been there, invading my breast? It’s a very rare type of breast cancer, with only 1% of breast cancers being IBC. While the average 5-year survival rate for the more common breast cancers is now 87%, the survival rate for IBC is 40%. As one friend said to me yesterday, “You sure know how to pick the difficult battles of life.” But hey - I'm thinking that 40% are outstanding odds for a "tough as gristle" girl like me.
While the diagnosis is not necessarily the best, family and friends continue to remind me that cancer never met a tougher bird than me. I’ve battled the tobacco industry, the powerful health insurance lobby, tough legislators and an army of school superintendents who wanted to keep schools the same. And my track record is this – I beat them all! So, I plan on taking on this war with breast cancer just like all my other battles – with a strong will and determination to win! I WILL NOT LET YOU TAKE ME DOWN!! I’m not giving up and I plan to fight like hell. I saw a bumper sticker several months ago that has stuck in my mind: “Whoever said that winning isn’t everything wasn’t fighting breast cancer.”
I keep telling myself, “Cancer does not have a brain or a heart or a spirit – but I DO!”
Since Wednesday, I’ve been fortunate enough to be under the care of Dr. Suzanne Klimberg, Director of Breast Surgical Oncology at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute – both of them world renowned in breast cancer research and treatment. And since Dr. Klimberg took me under her wing, I have had more digital imaging and lots of lab work. Tomorrow they will insert an intravenous port in my chest where I’ll receive my chemotherapy treatments. On Wednesday I’ll be at UAMS for an MRI and a PET scan procedure. While the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes, this test will determine if it has spread anywhere else inside my body. And finally, on Thursday, I’ll meet with Dr. Issam Makhoul (pronounced “McCool” – how cool is that?) who will be my medical oncologist. He’s the one working with my pathology reports trying to determine my “chemotherapy cocktail.” Those who know him say he is the best. Dr. Klimberg told me that and Mackhoul has developed some new chemotherapy treatments for IBC – and having some positive results. All of this is very good news for me and the other IBC patients at the WPR Cancer Institute. What a cool breast team I have!!
Cancer will not take away my spirit!! As the doctors tend to my body, my spirit is what will keep me alive. And I will continue to remember – I have a fighting spirit, while cancer has no spirit.
When you say a prayer for me, please say one for Allyson and Anna-Lee too. They need God’s love, and your love too. Thank you my dear family and friends. You give me energy, and you keep my spirit alive! I will never lose spirit!