Twelve Years and Counting
I am a stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer survivor, diagnosed in May 2001.Â In February 2001 when I was 51, I noticed itching on my left nipple that stopped after a few days, and some discomfort in March and April during my monthly cycle.Â I specifically remember that on April 13th, there were no visible symptoms, but 2 weeks later, my breast was swollen, pink and warm with fever, a portion of the tissue across the top was hard and I had shooting pain every so often.Â When my symptoms were at their worst, I was out of town on business â€“ they seemed to appear overnight.Â I saw the doctor on May 4th and he said that the breast tissue was “1,000 times worse than in December” and he gave me Zithromax to take for 5 days.Â He hoped that I had an infection, but there was a mass about 8.8 cm that was very strange and hard.Â I returned on Tuesday, May 8th, and the doctor was very disappointed that the antibiotics had not helped.Â He explained that I should get an ultrasound that day.Â I had a very painful mammogram and then an ultrasound.Â The radiologist was noncommittal â€“ said he could not tell me what it was or wasnâ€™t, and told me to immediately go back to my GYN.Â When I did, he was so upset and said the radiologist thought I might have a malignancy, and I should see my PCP right away.Â Imagine my shock, when that had never crossed my mind at all.Â I left his office to go to see my PCP, whose nurse immediately called the surgeon, and he saw me on two days later on Thursday, May 10th.Â Again, I was shocked when he said I had a 50/50 chance of having breast cancer!Â I had pain – you are not supposed to have pain with breast cancer; right?Â The next day, my husband went to the Internet and did a search with the symptoms, and found an “inflammatorybreastcancer” website.Â When I returned from work on Friday, he talked to me about it and asked me if I wanted to see what he had found.Â I told him, â€œIf you know the enemy, you can fight it better,â€ and I needed to know what we were up against.
We got the bad news on Monday, May 14, 2001.Â When I met my oncologist, I asked him, â€œDo you believe in miracles?â€Â He said, â€œI know there are things that happen that are unexplained.â€Â I told him very firmly, that I did believe in them and he was going to see one happen.
On Wednesday afternoon, a dear friend brought two of her powerful Christian friends to my office for healing prayer.Â After the healing prayer, I left that room with a big smile, saying, â€œI am going to be just fine!!â€Â That was the beginning of my very positive attitude and intense faith that I knew I was right â€“ and here I am!!!Â My Bible Study teacher tells me I have the gift of Faith, and I used it on myself.
I had the CT, echocardiogram, and bone scans on Tuesday and Wednesday.Â I started the Adriamycin/Cytoxan chemo on Thursday, May 17th and went back to work on Monday the 21st.Â Since a “gray” area showed up on my spine, an MRI 3 weeks later revealed 2 metastases in my vertebrae.Â My husband and I were devastated and again said many prayers that these would go away.Â Later in August, we found out there were actually 6 bone metastases.
One week after my first chemo on May 24th, my husband and I met with a breast cancer oncologist at Duke University Medical Center.Â He was not very encouraging and explained that this was a serious breast cancer.Â We got the impression from him that I was not going to be around to worry about whether I had one or two breasts, and he did not recommend a bilateral mastectomy.Â I told my husband and myself then that I was going to prove them wrong.Â My last chemo was the Wednesday before my 52nd birthday on July 18th.Â After my first chemo, I was put into â€œchemopauseâ€ instead of â€œmenopause.â€
I had surgery on August 8, 2001. During the follow-up scans after surgery (CT, MRI, and Bone), a quarter-size spot showed up in my liver, plus my liver enzymes were â€œsky highâ€.Â That weekend was the second hardest of all of them.Â We had our â€œpity partyâ€ that Saturday and my husband and I said lots of prayers.Â By Monday, we were ready to really fight with all our strength.Â I had 2 healing prayers within a 10-day period, and when I had a liver MRI in preparation for a biopsy, the spot was no longer there.Â The doctor said that the spot was possibly the duodenum and the radiologist read the scan incorrectly.Â Later, I hugged my oncologist and he seemed surprised and said, â€œWhat was that for?â€Â I told him that he had a tough job – he said that I did, since I was the patientâ€¦and I told him, â€œNot for long – I am going to be healed.â€
After having a port placed on my right chest wall, I began weekly Taxol on August 28, 2001 and finished on March 21, 2002.Â In the middle of weekly chemo, I started radiation on December 10th and had 33 sessions, completing them on January 28, 2002.Â I said prayers during all 33 treatments.
My cancer was diagnosed as Estrogen Receptor+/Progesterone Receptor+, Her2neu negative.Â No females in my family (either side) have ever been diagnosed with breast cancer.Â I now take a daily Femara (2.5 mg).Â Up until 2 years ago, I was getting 4 mg Zometa every 3 months.Â In June, 2011, the Zometa caused an â€œunusual thigh bone fracture,â€ and I had a rod inserted, and later my port was removed.Â I get scans once a year, and so far, I am stable with no progression.Â My tumor markers continue to be in the normal range.Â In 2006, my radiation oncologist gave me a certificate, stating that he believes I am â€œcured,â€ which is something I never thought I would hear.
Prior to diagnosis, my husband and I had sold our home and were moving to Florida.Â Our plans were to be there by the first of July, and when the surgeon told me I had breast cancer, I said, â€œI canâ€™t have breast cancer – we are moving in 2 weeks!â€Â Well, that didnâ€™t happen, and we knew we would find out why we could not retire as planned – “everything happens for a reason” we kept saying.Â Three months after I completed chemo, my mother passed away in June 2002.
During follow-up visits with my GYN and surgeon in 2005, I asked them if they expected me to be doing so well 4 years later, and they both said they did not really think I would be around, because it is such a serious cancer.Â I told them I was glad they did not tell me that earlier.
I hope my story inspires and helps othersâ€¦..God has been so good to me and my husband.Â We are so blessed. We never did make it to Florida, and are so glad we didnâ€™t.Â Two different Dove chocolate wrappers told me in the last year, â€œYouâ€™re exactly where youâ€™re supposed to be.â€Â Yes, I am.
CLB, age 63, NC.