This woman's mammogram failed to detect her rare form of breast cancer
As men and women, we are constantly told to check our bodies for cancer. Whether it's checking your breasts or your testicles, it is encouraged that you monitor your body for any signs of cancer and if you do have any suspicions, you should seek medical help as quickly as possible.
However, for one woman in Rockwall, Texas, her breast cancer didn't present itself as a tumour or a lump. For Jennifer Cordts, her cancer appeared as a tinge of red skin akin to sunburn on the side of her breast.
"I really want this to educate. I really want someone to say 'Oh my gosh, I have redness in my breast. I better push past the mammogram and ask for some more tests'" said Cordts, 46, a mother of two daughters.
Jennifer's journey initially began two years ago, when she noticed the slight discolouring on her body and alerted her primary care doctor who order that she do a test.
"I went and got a mammogram and it came back normal. Everything looked fine," she explained.
The mammogram showed no lump, no tumour and her blood pressure was normal. Her doctor dismissed the worry and naturally so did Jennifer, who was relieved to be told that it was nothing serious. "I was told crazy enough that my bra was too small," she recalled as a reason given by a doctor.
However, despite buying a load of new bras and taking antibiotics prescribed by another doctor, the light spot on her breast refused to go away. Jennifer decided to Google her symptoms, and she was shocked by what she saw.
"IBC came up. Inflammatory Breast Cancer," she said. "It was the first thing that popped up. And it was late at night. Everybody was asleep. And I was terrified. I just had a bad feeling."
After 11 months of misdiagnosis, Jennifer had a biopsy which confirmed what a mammogram could not. "It took my breath away," she said.
"I remember him saying inflammatory breast cancer. And all I could think about was what I Googled. Because what I Googled said everybody dies. That nobody survives. So, I knew my fate right then."
Jennifer's cancer was stage four. Since the diagnosis, she has been treated by Dr. Joyce O'Shaughnessy in Texas Oncology, at Baylor Scott & White Hospital. Although the medicine being used cannot stop the IBC, it has begun to successfully slow it down.
"The doctors gave us three to five years. That was a year and a half ago. We're hoping for five, right?" said Rob Cordts, Jennifer’s husband.
Every three months Jennifer has to go for another scan to see if the cancer is spreading, meaning the anxiety sets in for the couple once more. "You're trying to stay positive for the kids and the wife but I cry every day," said Rob, 46.
"Here's the thing. This is so rare that many gynaecologists and primary care providers – they don't see this stuff. They don't see it so they'll come up with every excuse that it's something else than what it is. This is how it goes undetected," said Dr. Shannon Poppito, a clinical psychologist at Baylor Scott and White.
Dr. Poppito says that the treatment is as much about Jennifer's mental health as it is about her medical health.
"The head and the heart is 90 percent of the battle because she's carrying around with her the awareness that she will die from this cancer," added Poppito.
Jennifer says that she now plans on creating as many memories as she can before she dies, with her family set to go on an Alaskan cruise and she recently went to see Celine Dion in Las Vegas.
"I wouldn't be truthful to you or anybody else if I didn't say I was sad. And maybe a little mad. But mostly sad," said the brave mother. Jennifer wants this story to serve as a warning other women to push for more tests if they’re concerned.
"I'm not necessarily afraid to die but I'm very afraid to say goodbye," she said.
It's a fear that she never expected to face, but her bravery and honesty must be applauded.