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Survivor Stories: Terry Arnold

Survivor Stories:
Terry Arnold

How did you first find out you had cancer?

After being told for almost four months that my red and swollen breast was nothing to be worried about (my diagnosis was changed from mastitis, to menopausal changes, to a pituitary gland infection to…you get it), I was told after a punch biopsy that I had Inflammatory Breast Cancer, the most fatal of all the breast cancers and since it was missed for four months, that it was most likely too late. And the doctor started to cry.

How did you react when you heard the news?

I was relieved. After getting the run around for such a long time, to have a definite answer, even if it was cancer, was a relief. I knew something was wrong, but I never thought cancer. There was not a lump and my breast swelled overnight. So this was not anything that I thought of as cancer. Now I had some solid knowledge and a place to start from to try to get better, so I felt empowered.

What course of treatment were you prescribed?

That is where it got a little confusing to me.  Even though I was told that it was most likely too late, the doctors wanted to put me though some treatment. I asked many questions since IBC is so rare. What experience does my local oncologist have with treating it? What are my chances? Do I need to go someplace with more research or clinical trials?  Answers were vague. A lot of “we will take this one step at a time” answers.

What most surprised you about your treatment?

Due to the rarity of my cancer, I wanted to go to a major cancer center in my area, MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. Not because I wanted a second opinion, but I thought if I was going to die of something rare, they could study me, or do something, so it might help someone else diagnosed with IBC in the future. Imagine my shock when I found out that MD Anderson had opened a clinic devoted to this rare cancer just the year prior. Not only did they want to see me, they thought they could help me live longer. By that time, I had found some information on IBC and it was very frightening. When MD Anderson told me that I would be in treatment for 18 months I was excited. I didn’t think they would start treatment with a plan for 18 months if I would not live at least 18 months.

What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?

Don’t let fear overwhelm you. But also, don’t have the “Oh, cancer, it’s just a bump in the road” mentality, either. Both are not good. Fear will steal the life you have; underestimating cancer can give it the upper hand.

How long have you been cancer free?

Five years. After a triple negative IBC diagnosis, that is a lifetime.

What lessons did you learn from the experience?

Healing, answered prayers, and grace comes in all forms. Soak it up. Doctors really do care about their patients. The kindness of a stranger really can change the world. The actions of a few really do matter.

If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?

How we spend our leisure time defines who we are. So do something that matters because that is what you will leave in the world. And hope, always.

 

Terry Arnold was diagnosed with IBC in her right breast in August 2007 after months of misdiagnoses. As if an IBC triple negative diagnosis was not enough of a blow, she discovered her left breast had traditional cancer as well. Outside of being the best wife possible to Calvin, her husband of 32 years, mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother, she is focused on educating every person to learn more about IBC, its symptoms, best treatment plans, and funding research. Terry started a charity to fund IBC research, The IBC Network Foundation. Read some of her collected thoughts at Texan On A Train.

 

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