At the age of 36, I was diagnosed with stage IV inflammatory breast cancer. I was also pregnant with our second daughter.
During the pregnancy, my breasts began to change. But my left breast changed more than my right breast – it was bigger, a different shape, red and inflamed.
My OBGYN and multiple specialists all thought the same, that I had an odd case of mastitis. Multiple antibiotics later, nothing changed. It wasn’t until my condition sent me to the hospital that we finally got some answers about what was going on. A breast surgeon walked into my hospital room, spent 4 seconds looking at my left breast, and told me she was pretty sure I had inflammatory breast cancer.
She was right. Tests confirmed I had stage IV inflammatory breast cancer.
Patients with IBC are often diagnosed with later stages of the disease, in part because IBC presents in a different way and is harder to detect. About 30 percent of patients are initially diagnosed with Stage IV, or metastatic disease, which means their breast cancer has already spread to other parts of their body.
Because my breast cancer had spread by the time I was diagnosed, I had to start chemotherapy right away. The doctors acted aggressively to control the spread of my cancer as quickly as possible.
After a few rounds of chemotherapy, I miscarried our baby girl. That has been the biggest gut punch of this entire journey.
I didn’t even know inflammatory breast cancer existed until I had it. I want to get the word out about the disease so we can catch it early, get people into treatment and lengthen, or even save, their lives.
*We need to know more about IBC to better diagnose it and have effective treatments. We need more understanding of the biology of IBC, we need better clinical data specific to IBC patients, and we need more shared information to improve outcomes for IBC. That’s why Komen, the Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) Research Foundation and the Milburn Foundation® are committed to supporting research to better understand, diagnose, and treat IBC.