The ABC’s of My IBC
Dolores Briere
Sudberry, Canada

A. I only wish I had known about IBC and what to look for…prior to my diagnosis. I knew about lumps in the breast, but I most certainly was not going to bother my physician with my ITCHY breast because I was thinking it must have been due to my new bra or the detergent I used … nor was I going to bother him later with my SWOLLEN breast because I was thinking that I must have gained some weight. But then, out popped a lump in my neck. So to my general practitioner I went in March of 2000. I was 45.

The tumor was removed, and the pathology report came back: Stage IV IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer). When my oncologist told me the news I did not for a split second believe I was going to die. My thought was, “Over my dead body!!!” Now, what was the DIFFERENCE between IBC and other breast cancers?

IBC is a more aggressive, faster growing type of cancer. Mine had metastasized (traveled). SO WHAT DO I DO? What are my options? What is my prognosis? The answer: Not good. “BULLFEATHERS!” is what I say.

I am told I need chemo and radiation. Mastectomy is of no use at this point, they say, because the cancer has spread. Well, okay, then! Let’s get started! I went through all the chemo and radiation. It was no picnic, but I was determined to go through with ALL of it. Lost my hair, of course. So what? I did not bother to wear a wig, BUT I did wear my makeup daily.

Having no eyelashes proved to be a challenge so more eye shadow was used. Of course, JEWELRY was a NECESSITY on ALL of my treatments. Radiation was a real BURNOUT, but my sense of humor never fizzled. Hearing people laugh and making people laugh is what I cherish the most; therefore, I was not about to let my cancer eat away at my spirit as well as my body.

B. I heard the word “cancer,” and I knew it was not good. My husband was not prepared for those words, although I must say I was. I had a sneaking feeling that cancer was at the root of my problems. After all, I was losing weight without even trying. Now, I knew this was a DEAD give-away. For years, trying to lose weight was a never-ending, hopeless battle, but now I was losing weight even while wolfing down chocolates.

Now that my husband knew, I had to tell my daughters. My eldest daughter was planning her upcoming wedding and did not want to hear the words, but I held her close and told her I was not about to just lie down and die. I have never been a person to run in the face of a challenge. Telling my second daughter was a little more of a trial. I had to give her my news by way of a long distance phone call. I could not hold her so I asked her fiance to do so for me. My phone was ringing until 2 a.m. with her calling me back once she was ready to talk and ask questions.

Then came the rest of my family … my parents and parents-in-law, my brothers and brothers-in-law … all in all I managed to tell all those I loved what was happening and to assure them of my determination for survival.

Now it was time for my DYING. I took two weeks to write my final letters to my daughters, my husband, my parents, my brothers. … Once this was done, I wrote my obituary. Then came my eulogy. I got a professional picture made of myself while I still had hair. One photo of me is looking “beyond.” I signed it, “I am always near,” and I gift wrapped it and addressed it to my husband with orders for him to open after my funeral. And NO, I am NOT crazy. I did all this in order for me to live through my death and get it OUT OF THE WAY. I have done my dying and refuse to think about my death. Everything is in a box. I even saw a picture of the casket I want, and on it is written, “RETURN TO SENDER.” This is the type of person I am. I want to leave those I love with a smile.

C. Now I live each day to the fullest. I am not saying that I do not have my downfalls, but when they do surface, I refuse to drown in them even if I never was much of a swimmer. I try and keep my sense of humor, and I try to help out those who need help. I wrote a brief apercu on my IBC with this in mind. Not only do I hope I can help others with IBC, but I also hope I can give them something to smile about. :- )

Story Submitted 2001