Seventy-two and Cancer-Free – 11 Years After IBC
by Jean Lyles
Harwood, Maryland

I am 72 and at present, I am cancer-free. I was diagnosed with stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer in October 1990. I woke up on a Sunday morning with my left breast as hard as a rock and double the size of my right breast. Wednesday I called my primary care physician and got an appointment. I was treated for over three weeks for a breast infection, and by the time I had a needle aspiration the end of September, I could barely lift my left arm.

The surgeon called my office and advised me that a biopsy would be performed October first and to report to the hospital by 7 a.m. Needless to say, I was one upset cookie! I guess I knew when we started down to the Operating Room that “it” was cancer, but confirmation was needed. When the surgeon took out the stitches a few days later, he told me I had very little time to get to an oncologist. No sooner said than done.

I called the best oncologist in the Annapolis area, and my husband and I drove out to Bethesda to see if they could and would see me. I was accepted and was given the earliest date possible. I was admitted to the hospital on October 17 and went through a battery of tests to see if I could take part in a National Cancer Institute clinical trial. I was at a hospital that had fellows from NCI in both Medical and Radiological Oncology

Treatment began October 27, 1990. I received chemo every three weeks. The first day I got Doxorubicin, Cytoxan, 5-FU, and Leucovorin. The second and third days, I received the first three drugs. The fourth day I received a shot of GM-SCF. This was an experimental drug to keep my blood up. I received the first of the 10 cycles as an inpatient; the balance was done as an outpatient. From the 5th to the 15th day, I gave myself the GM-CSF and usually only to have the shots for 7-10 days.

The Tuesday of the second week, following my first treatment, it seemed that my breast was already shrinking, and a photo session was set up. I had photos taken every 2 or 3 weeks until my treatment was over.

On December 24, 1990, my doctor told me that I was in complete remission! I felt this was the best Christmas present anyone could give me. I finished the protocol in April 1991, and in July 1991, I had a modified radical mastectomy. This was followed by 33 radiation treatments, which started in October 1991.

The first two years after completion of my treatment, I had scans and tests every 3 months. The frequency decreased to once every four months; then, once every six months. Now I go to see my oncologist once a year. I don’t blame the doctors for the delay in my diagnosis. Not much was known about IBC eleven years ago. I placed my life in God’s hands in October 1990, and He led me to the right doctors and treatment. Without the prayers of so many, I often wonder how I would have made it. I am proud and grateful to be an IBC Survivor of nearly 11 years. I have a lot of other things to be thankful for, too. I have been married to the same man for over 50 years who was right by my side during treatment even mixing my experimental drugs for me. We have 2 sons and a niece that we raised as our daughter; these three have blessed us with 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. I am so thankful that there was “life after IBC for me.”

Story Submitted 2001