In His Arms
by Noreen Grasse
Scottsdale, Arizona

I just turned 49, and I was diagnosed with IBC in April of 2001. I had a mammogram because I noticed changes in my left breast. It was swollen and the nipple was inverted, but I never dreamed I had cancer. Despite the fact that nothing showed up on the mammogram, I was sent to a surgeon because of the outward appearance of my breast. I thought I was just going there to talk to the surgeon about it, but he looked at my breast and immediately suspected something called IBC. He did an ultrasound and five biopsies right then and there. I had only been in his office ten minutes before all this took place. Everything was happening way too fast. I was in a complete fog.

What was this IBC? I had never heard of it. I thought I just had some sort of breast infection, that he would give me a prescription, and I would be on my way. WRONG! For 49 years, all I needed was a dentist and an ob/gyn. Now I had a dentist, an ob/gyn, a surgeon, an oncologist, and a radiation oncologist. My surgeon insisted I begin chemo right away. Right away? Yes. Didn’t I have a choice? No. Couldn’t I have a few days to think about it? No. Was chemo my only hope? Yes.

Because my breast was swollen, I had 3 cycles of chemo and then a mastectomy. The thought of chemo scared me more than the thought of death. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s true. I hated the thought of losing my hair and feeling sick all the time. My hair fell out while I was in the shower, and before looking in the mirror, I would put one of those caps on my head. The first time I actually saw myself bald was the day after surgery … two months later. I was at my sister’s house, recovering from my mastectomy. I had taken a shower, and when I got out, I caught a glimpse of myself in her mirror. My left breast was gone, and I was bald. I shook from the inside out. I cried tears that came from so deep within me that I didn’t think I would be able to stop.

I live alone. I have two sons who are 25 and 28. I haven’t yet been able to tell them how serious this is. I have played it down with the rest of my family, my friends, and my co-workers. A month after surgery I began 3 more cycles of chemo. At this date, I have two more chemo treatments left, and then 6 weeks of radiation. This will be followed by a drug called Tamoxifen … and this scares me.

I have been bombarded by well-meaning people with tapes, books, articles, relaxation methods, shark cartilage … you name it. Suddenly I was in over-drive. Too much information!! I put all the items in a box and decided not to torture myself with any more information for a while. That’s when I handed it all to God and asked Him to please give me the courage, strength, and energy to walk this path. He has held me gently in His arms, and I feel at peace most of the time. Whenever I start to crumble, I feel him gathering me in His arms, and I can almost hear Him telling me that this is all in His hands … not mine … not the doctor’s … not anyone else’s. I admit, I am still scared sometimes, but at least I have been able to get some peace in this ordeal.

Still, I was feeling pretty alone because I hadn’t opened up with my family in order to spare them the worry. I gave them … “everything will be okay.” I needed someone, though, with whom to share my fear. That’s when I logged onto the internet and found the IBC network. It has given me so much strength and hope … and I don’t feel so alone anymore. I had felt different from the whole world for the past five months because I didn’t know anyone with IBC. That only added to my feeling of being like some sort of alien.

I’m so happy I have found you, my IBC friends, and I thank you for sharing your hearts and souls and stories with me. I know now, that I am not alone and that I am surrounded by many courageous, wonderful, hopeful women. That has become a real comfort to me.