Friday, September 14, 2007

pink balloons

Apparently, I am as raw as I was when I wrote my last post. Which is strange on a day like today, a day so mild that not even the shadows bear a tingle of chill, a day for which I was unprepared and overdressed so I shlepped around town this morning sweaty and uncomfortable. I went to the bank, which is decorated with pink balloons and streamers, and even the tellers, normally so fashionably conservative, have sprayed their hair fuschia. All to promote the Walk for the Cure. How did I discover I am still raw? I nearly cried when I opened the door, and there on the floor is the question, "Who are you walking for?" So arresting to be reminded that everyone, every single person, knows at least one friend or family member affected by breast cancer, someone who may only remain in their memories, accompanying them on this walk only in spirit. Sobering, to say the least.

This post wasn't supposed to be about breast cancer (I don't know what it was supposed to be about, exactly, but not that), but since I'm on the subject, I may as well continue. I know a number of women in real life who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, with both happy and sad endings. But the first person I think of right now, is Whymommy at Toddler Planet. I discovered her just as she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, an unusual form of breast cancer that doesn't present with a lump, but with strange skin changes, often in young women during pregnancy or lactation. When she described the symptoms, I became concerned about some weird skin stuff happening with my breasts (still lactating), and I booked an appointment with my doctor for the very next day. It turned out to be nothing, not IBC, but I was grateful to Whymommy for raising my awareness of this kind of cancer.

Later, she invited us to steal her post, which I meant to do, I just haven't gotten around to it. So here goes:

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.


Mimi said...

I'm glad to read this again -- it's good to drive that message home. An important message.

Is it ever going to stop, this daily rawness, the sudden bursting into tears? I didn't know motherhood was going to do this to me.

Jennifer said...

I think there is a lot of "raw" going around these days. At least, I'm feeling it.

And, yes, I, too, know several woman affected by breast cancer. Awareness is so key and thank you for spreading the word.

Kyla said...

I think parenthood makes our skin so much thinner...we're at constant risk of being rubbed raw by the world.

Thanks for the reposting. It is important information.

Beck said...

Motherhood does make us so much sensitive, but I think that it's a GOOD sensitive, this vulnerability that finally makes us mothers.

crazymumma said...

We cannot drive home that message enough.

Raw is good I think. It keeps us on our toes.

I ran that run 2 years ago for my mother, long deceased. Hers is a strange story. Maybe I will write it soon.

Thanks for this post.

flutter said...

Thank you for reminding us.

Bon said...

the raw sneaks up in a lot of places...

and i too am glad to read Whymommy's post again.

Christine said...

this is a great post and it should be shared over and over.

thanks, love.