Living With but Not Defined by Metastatic Inflammatory Breast Cancer — by Beth Porreca

Picture it: New Year’s Eve 2015. You’re 36, single, debating which pair of jeans and heels to wear out that night with your friends, a cold bottle of sparkling wine is ready to go and your phone rings. It’s the doctor. Turns out that rash you were worried about isn’t a rash. It’s cancer and you need to come in to meet with on oncologist right away, that evening in fact, because it’s already at least stage 3 and most likely stage 4. Somehow, you manage to walk out of the house and drive to the hospital where you meet the Doctor who will be the reason you are alive in 2021. He tells you that it’s not good news, in fact, of all the types of breast cancer, it’s the ugliest of the ugly. It’s Inflammatory breast cancer, less than 1% of all breast cancer’s are IBC and you’re going to spend the next year fighting for your life.

I write and tell that in the third person, because that’s what December 31, 2015 felt like: an out-of-body experience. Everything from that day is etched in my memory forever, but it was also a total blur. As was the next year: tests, more tests, chemo, double mastectomy, 30 lymph nodes removed, hysterectomy, lymphedema, radiation and finally, a glimmer of hope, a cancer free diagnosis. And then pain, so much pain because three months later what we thought was a blood clot turned out to be metastatic cancer throughout my right shoulder cutting off my nerves in the brachial plexus and eventually causing paralysis in my right arm.

Since my metastatic diagnosis, I’ve been in daily treatment and because of the aggressive nature of my disease, I will always be in chemotherapy or immunotherapy treatment. IBC is nasty and the metastasis is just as mean and ugly. Our Team, The Wrecking crew, was born of my cancer tag #BethWrecksCancer. It’s a group of family and friends from all over the county that fly in or walk where they are. It’s my community of care givers, co-survivors, supporters and the people that get me through every bump in the road. We walk with SGK because the resources and programs that SGK offers have helped me. Whether it’s education, support groups, programs, outreach or research support; SGK has provided me with resources to help me at every stage of my journey. I believe in the mission and vision and I’m proud to walk and raise money on behalf of the organization as well as act as an SGK Advocacy Ambassador.

Our team brings the fun! You most likely will find us tailgating in the parking lot and you’ll recognize us by our pink moose T-shirts.

Join Beth and the thousands of others affected by breast cancer at the New Jersey MORE THAN PINK Walk on Sunday, October 3rd with the options of attending at Six Flags Great Adventure or Walking Where You Are. It is free to register at: Komen.org/NewJerseyWalk

Our mission is to save lives by meeting the most critical needs in our communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent & cure breast cancer.