When It Comes Out of Nowhere

Work in Progress

breast cancerBlurb

With this memoir, I hope to fill a void that exists in the breast cancer literature. To date, most of the memoirs focus on women in Stages I and II. The messages are clear: Catch it early. Perform regular self-examinations. Get annual mammograms. But not all cancers can be detected so easily. Often misdiagnosed or overlooked, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a nasty cancer that literally comes out of nowhere.

In my case, the numbers were extremely nasty…

13 centimeter tumor
30% chance of surviving beyond five years

That was the diagnosis twelve years ago. Today, I’m cancer free and living a healthy, active life.


Normally, Dr. Karl jokes and makes me laugh. But this time was different. He didn’t smile or say anything as he checked my right breast. He averted his eyes for several seconds and then turned to face me. “This is cancer.”

“How do you know? I haven’t even had a mammogram.”

His eyes widened and he looked away again.

I persisted. “Are one hundred percent sure?”

He paused and frowned. “Well, ninety-five percent sure. Of course, we’ll have to wait for the mammogram and biopsy results.”

“That five percent. What else could it be?”


“What’s that?”

“Oh…a breast infection.” He left the room and, a few moments later, I heard him talking on the telephone in the adjoining office. When he returned, he said. “I’ve scheduled an appointment with Dr.McGillivray. She’s a surgeon.”

“Why do I need a surgeon for a breast infection?”

“Relax. She’ll see you next Friday at 9:00 a.m. You should have the mammogram results by then.”


“This coming Wednesday at the lab in the Eaton Centre,” he said. “It’s sometime in the afternoon. Check with my secretary before you leave. Oh, and you’ll have to pick up the results on Thursday. Dr. McGillivray will want to see them when you meet with her on Friday. She might be able to schedule surgery next Saturday.”

“Saturday of the Victoria Day Weekend?” I had never heard of any surgeon scheduling surgery on a holiday weekend. That is, unless it was an emergency heart surgery or other life and death situation.

Why was everyone moving so quickly?