Elizabeth Jolley Shares Her Journey with IBC

Some months ago, I posted an article written by a lady who was living with metastasized breast cancer.

In Living in Victory: When Cancer Seems Out of Control, Elizabeth Jolley offered 10 tips on how to cope with that nightmare diagnosis and treatment.

Today, I’m honoured to be able to share with you her testimony of how she discovered the cancer and what transpired.

Elizabeth writes:

December 24, 2011, I awoke to a red rash and mild swelling in my right breast. It had only been a few months since a mammogram, I checked for lumps regularly, so I assumed it was maybe a reaction to soap, or that I needed to replace some bras as maybe they had shrunk and were irritating my breast.

A few days later, I saw my doctor for a routine checkup and asked her about the mysterious rash that was still there. She put me on antibiotics, but insisted I return the next week. When I went back, expecting stronger antibiotics, I was sent for an ultrasound.

While everybody else was enjoying the first day back at school after vacation, I was getting a breast biopsy. Two days later my doctor called me at school to tell me I had breast cancer and she suspected it was Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

I told my school principal about the call (she alreadyRoller coaster2 knew about the biopsy) and she sent me home from work because I was obviously in shock.

Thus began my rollercoaster ride with IBC stage 3B*. A year later, immediately after finishing treatment, I learned it had metastasized to stage 4*. I found that out just before the birth of my first grandchild and just before my birthday.

God is good. I am still here.

I now have two grandchildren. I saw my youngest child graduate from college.

I gave up teaching music in the public school because of fatigue and other side effects of past and current treatments, and I now volunteer a half day a week at a Christian school as their music teacher.

It’s not the life I planned, and I don’t know how long I’ll be here. But I didn’t expect to make it this far when the cancer first metastasized.

I am blessed.

Elizabeth Jolley

Shirley: A few days ago, I received this message on Facebook: 

Shirley, I wanted to share with you that my last PET scan was so good that the oncologist actually used the word REMISSION! I do have to stay in treatment, plus keep getting regular tests and scans, but it still feels like a wonderful gift. Praise God!

  • IBC Stage IIIB describes invasive breast cancer in which:

    • the tumor may be any size and has spread to the chest wall and/or skin of the breast and caused swelling or an ulcer AND
    • may have spread to up to 9 axillary lymph nodes OR
    • may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone
  • IBC Stage 4 is invasive breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs of the body.

Thank you again Elizabeth for sharing your experience with us. For someone facing the same terrifying diagnosis as you did, this can be so heartening. It is certainly an encouragement to live every day you have to the full.  

If you are going through the valley of cancer right now, I do urge you to read Elizabeth’s 10 tips for coping.

star blinkingHave you ever received as frightening a diagnosis as this?

How did you deal with it? Or is someone you love facing such a situation. Take heart from this article, and as you read it and Elizabeth’s other article, ask yourself the question. What is it that helps Elizabeth live her life day to day without falling apart?

Please click here:

9 comments on “Elizabeth Jolley Shares Her Journey with IBC

  1. I have never had to deal with a diagnosis myself – but I can understand the feeling of being thankful for every day as I survived a very bad car accident several years ago. Thank you for sharing your story. Wish you all the best.

  2. So sorry to hear your story but glad you have fought the disease to this point. I hope you go on fighting.

    The thing that screams out at me personally is the fact that this flared up months after a mammogram. I know this is hotly debated but there is evidence that the aggressive way breasts are squished around for the mammogram is very bad if you have dormant tumours that, if left alone, will never flare up.

    I have made a conscious decision, based on looking at research from both sides, not to have mine done and I think we as women should look closer at the issue instead of blindly letting the medical profession squash our breasts flat to see if anything is wrong with them.

    There are other methods of checking for breast cancer – thermal imaging is one.

    So glad you are still here to tell your story.

    • Gilly, thanks for reading.
      My type of breast cancer, inflammatory (IBC), often does not show up on mammograms until very advanced as it does not have a defined lump. When it finally does show up, it looks rather like a spider’s web spreading through the breast. IBC accounts for approximately 5% of breast cancers, is highly aggressive, and is the most likely type to metastasize to stage 4.
      Please do not use my experience as a reason not to get mammograms or some kind of breast imaging to screen for cancer. My cousin had a more typical breast cancer that was caught early, thanks to a mammogram.

      • Thanks so much for your input Elizabeth. I didn’t know IBC was often not caught on a mammogram. Mine was caught on a mammogram but they thought it was too late as my gynae didn’t believe in them. Had I not gone ahead without his consent I wouldn’t have made it as I had no symptoms.

      • Shirley, I think you had invasive, didn’t you? I had inflammatory. Inflammatory does not have a lump and is usually diagnosed after it causes swelling, skin changes, or both. Inflammatory is rare, but aggressive and many times there are delays in diagnosis because everyone, even many doctors, expect cancer to always have a lump.
        If inflammatory goes metastatic, and it often does like mine did, it is rare for it to go into remission. I see my remission as a precious gift of time from God.
        I was blessed to have a doctor who recognized it and to get an oncologist who had actually done research on it.

      • Yes, mine was invasive and had moved into the glands so they were constantly looking to see “where” it had metastasized to. (They still haven’t found it 🙂 )
        Praise God indeed for the medical team who took care / are taking care of you.

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