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Woman Battles Rare Breast Cancer

This article originally appeared on the KGMB website in May 2007
Woman Battles Rare Breast Cancer (KGMB 9 News) - May 2007

By Tina Chau

Gold's Gym is where you'll find Robin Ancog twice a week, working with her personal trainer. It's a routine she's determined to stick with to get her body ready.

In August, the 41-year old will be getting a double mastectomy to help get rid of a rare form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer or IBC. In February, the high school teacher discovered a lump after her shower and it's been a constant struggle since.

"There are days when it's really good," Ancog said. "I think about my kids and my husband and it's going to be fine. And then there are times late at night, where I'll say gosh I wish I didn't have this cancer."

Cancer specialist Dr. James Kakuda says IBC is very rare. It accounts for less than two percent of all breast cancers. But national statistics show the number of cases is increasing across the US. It's a troubling statistic because of how fast IBC can spread.

"It tends to spread to the bones, to the liver and to the lungs," Dr. Kakuda said.

He adds that you often don't feel a lump with IBC and it can be missed on a mammogram. Its trademark symptoms can be mis-diagnosed as a benign breast infection.

"The breast is swollen, it's red, the skin looks thickened, like an orange peel," he said.

The cancer can look like a scab or a dry patch on the breast.

By the time it is noticeable, the cancer has already developed. It can progress to something even more obvious, like a scab or a dry patch on the breast which can mean the tumor inside the breast is growing outward.

Many of Robin's physical symptoms of IBC are gone. She says it's a sign that chemotherapy is working. The taxing treatment makes her tired and she doesn't have much of an appetite. But her husband and her two young children push her on.

"My son would draw me picture when he sees that I'm down and he'll say, 'I'll draw you a picture so when you go to chemo you can think about our family and it'll be okay.' And I'm like okay."

She keeps her family close during her courageous fight by wearing a bracelet with all their pictures on it.

"I'm scared I'm going to die, and I know I'm going to die, but I'm not ready to die yet," Ancog said strongly.