How I Found Out


People ask me to describe how I found out that I have this rare cancer. I have read awful stories on the Internet where doctors and women ignored the symptoms of IBC until it was too late. In my case I am not sure when I started to have symptoms. I feel like it may have begun during my pregnancy with Clayton. At first I noticed swelling in my left breast-actually my whole left side. It went away after Clay was born but when he was three months old I noticed the left breast was bigger, had a lot of lumps, and felt hot. I thought that all of these were symptoms of an ordinary breast infection not unlike one that any nursing mom might experience. So I used hot compresses,cabbage leaves, motrin, and eventually antibiotics. None of these relieved my symptoms which kept getting worse. I went to the E.R. at Pennsylvania Hospital on May 5th. They thought I had mastitis as well, but recommended I get an ultrasound of the breast to rule out abscesses. I took my last two finals ever on Monday6th and Tuesday7th. I felt free to focus on my health for the first time in months. I was happy and confident when I went for my ultrasound. When the Dr. remarked that he could find no abscesses, just a thickening of the breast tissue, and that he thought I should go see the breast surgeon, I knew. I asked,” Do I have cancer?”. He said,” I don’t know, but I think we should try to find out right away.” I changed back into my clothing while he made an immediate appointment for me across the street with the breast surgeon. While in the waiting room I noticed a pamphlet on Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I picked it up and read through the symptoms..doing a mental checklist…I have that, I have that, Oh man I have that too! I walked up to the Doctor and said,” I have this.” He said,” oh good you got the pamphlet.” “No, I have this cancer.” He was less convinced than me. I paced the hall for what seemed like hours but was probably more like 30 minutes. I prayed. I called my husband. I read the words..fatal,aggressive,etc. I held in my tears. I met with the surgeon. A wonderful older gentlemen. I told him that I had breast cancer. Deadly bad breast cancer. He said , “Andrea we don’t know that yet.” I said ,”I know. Well at least now I don’t have to pay back my student loans.” He laughed. From that point on I got an immediate biopsy and mammogram. All on the same day. I loved everyone I met. I decided to be nice and try to just laugh about it. Its not that I didn’t feel sad. I did to be sure. But mostly I just thought it was so cliche’. Very Lifetime television. Mom of six finally graduated from college finds out she has deadly cancer the NEXT day? Implausible. I made up a top ten list ala David Letterman. Top ten reasons its good that I have cancer. Some of them are very funny. I let myself cry only a little. I pray. And although I know that the next world is more wonderful than this one, I will hold on dearly and pray for God to let me remain here with my lovely children and wonderful husband. But I won’t be angry or bitter. Life is too short. Especially mine.

5 Responses to “How I Found Out”

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    jenni bender says:

    andrea… i wanted to say a few things. i just saw this website today. i’ve read the entire thing. i think it’s wonderful you’re chronically this. it’s amazing and i will read it every day. this way i can stay updated on what is going on with you…

    you are by far one of the strongest women i have ever met. i could tell the minute i met you that you are fighter and have a strong will to live life. you are blessed with a wonderful family, but more importantly they are blessed with you. we all are here for you, i am here for you. you have been in my prayers every single day and will remain there. God has you in his hands. please remember that. nothing you will go through, will be alone, He is with you.

    i tried to call your house phone a few times in the past few days, always busy, but i don’t have your cell number. so i’m glad i saw this site. know i’m always here and if you want to call at any time to talk about anything, you have my number now.

    i had surgery on my cervix a little less than two weeks ago, to try to contain some cells which were abnormal (severe dysplasia) and i find out in 3 months if it worked. i went into the office to get the surgery and considered walking out. i’m not so much the fighter in these situations. and i thought of you and what you are going through and realized i need to pay attention to this and be strong. you were my inspiration and still are.

    you radiate a light to me. to a whole lot of us. please let me know how everything goes. i promise you will be on my mind and in my prayers. i pray that God carries you through tomorrow and that you feel strong and peaceful and feel love. you are special and i love you. we all do. God bless. – jenni

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    i just want you to know that i’m praying for you. you are indeed a strong warrior woman, that I remember about you from so many years ago, when we found out at the end of your pregnancy you were having breech twins…and then you went on to have them vaginally! at 55, what i have learned is how much i do not know, or even need to know, but our God is a mighty God for sure and you know that your life is in His hands and you can really trust Him. i pray God’s perfect peace for you & your family. much love & peace

  3. Rosanna Vinales says:

    Andrea, we may be apart physically but never apart in the spirit for God made it that way and we cannot deny it. You have literally been the wind beneath my wings. Without you I would have never opened my wings. You have been my inspiration for wanting a better life. You showed me that good things are not only for the privledged but that God has given us all gifts, talents and the ability to love. Your strength has carried so many and even through this you shine brightly and with grace. I love you. Im sorry I hurt you, Im sorry when I hurt myself it hurts you. Know that Im with you there is not a minute of the day that you are not on my heart. The tears are getting harder to control though yesterday I started crying in the middle of a film about Global Warming at school. As if my classmates aren’t a little freaked out by me already. Thank you for ever noticing me, talk to you soon.

  4. the other naomi says:

    this is the most fabulous thing ever. the b/w photos are beautiful, and andrea’s writing is soulful and heartbreakingly honest. i’m just glad that i was finally able to find the site, thanks to all daddy for the directions. i love this family so much and hope that this helps all who love and care for them, too.
    peacefully, now that i didn’t have to kill the computer, nay

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