Thursday, October 01, 2009
The Big C
I have the Big C the kind of which is destined to rapidly approach the Big D very soon. The Big C is Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). A particularly nasty and ferocious type of cancer and one not well known. IBC represents 1-3% (some sources say as much as 6%) of all breast cancers making it a rare and dangerous ruffian. It does not usually present as a lump, although that is what led me to pursue a doctor visit.
I had a spot on my right breast where my cats had jumped on me - twice. It was bruised and sore for a few weeks then seemed to heal. That was in late March.
In April, I had a lump form in about the same place. It was very hard and very easy to palpitate. Thinking that I had a cyst form from some deep bruising, I kept checking it and wasn't all that worried because I could move it and pinch the skin on top of it. Cancer tumors are not supposed to be able to move and you're not supposed to be able to pull the skin around them.
July came and the lump became rock hard, large enough to see pushing up against the skin of my breast. No pain, but the breast around it was tender. I knew I should get it looked at, but was crazy busy with life and my insane insomnia kept me up all hours of the night so that I could not function during the day. By August, friends were badgering me to go get it checked and I promised I would.
The last week of August, an itchy red, raised area appeared on the underside of my breast close to my arm pit. With my mirror, I could see that my pores looked like someone had reamed them out with an ice pick and the adjoining skin was rough and rippled. This was August 25th.
I couldn't get an appointment for two weeks. The redness, swelling and roughness spread to my nipple then up to cover the area where the lump was. My nipple started feeling like leather, began turning inwards, and the itching drove me nuts over the weekend. I decided not to wait for the appointment and walked into my clinic on September 1st.
My GP prescribed Keflex anitbiotic just in case it was a bug bite. I knew better and so did he. He's been to school and specialized in oncology before he came over to general practice. I'd spent hours on the internet Googling skin rashes, spider/insect bites, contact dermatitis and breast skin disorders. I hit the images toggle and there was my breast, second row down, second picture from the left. The picture title was "Inflammatory Breast Cancer".
By the time I got to see the doctor, I had a pretty good idea that the antibiotic wasn't going to do dick. And it didn't disappoint. My follow up was September 10th. I said, "This is the bad one, isn't it"?
"It may be," he said noncommitally. I saw the look exchanged between him and the nurse. He told me I'd had to have a diagnostic mammogram and that he was referring me to a breast specialist. I resist.
Mammograms are a tiger with a diamond studded collar to me. It may be touted as cutting edge diagnostic, but it's a wild card. Why bombard an area prone to cancer already with a known carcinogen? I don't see any radiologists or other medical professionals moving to Chernobyl so I gave mammos up for Lent seeing as how the ones I did have I suspected of destroying some perfectly movie star stand up bosom musculature that were my pride and joy. Also. I was immediately scheduled for a sonogram and then an MRI after each and every mammo. Why not cut to the chase and save some time and money?
"An oncologist, right?" I asked just to clarify. "Yes". I give in to the diagnostic mammo since I cannot see an oncologist and get a definitive diagnosis until I do.
I'm sitting in the hall next to his office and I hear the conversation he has on the phone talking to the scheduling clerk. "The referral is rule out IBC with palpable mass". I know what that stands for.
To be continued.