Update: When Kiwana shared this story in October of 2017, she was so full of hope. 

She was taken from us by this horrible disease on July 12, 2018.  She personifies why this cause is so important. 

In November 2015 after a training run for an upcoming half marathon, I noticed a sore place on my left breast. I also noticed what looked like enlargement of the same breast. I ended up getting a mammogram and ultrasound which showed that it looked like just dense breast tissue. This was not anything I haven’t heard before. I’ve been getting mammograms, ultrasounds and even a biopsy since the age of 32.

Weeks after that visit, I noticed more changes to my left breast. It began to look more more noticeable larger than the right breast. The hard lump I felt begin to grow. My nipple began to invert. My skin started to look like the skin of an orange, with enlarged pores. I made a secondary appointment because my gynecologist said if anything ever started to happen, call him ASAP. I got in to see him and as soon as I opened my shirt, he was alarmed. He called a colleague from downstairs. They conferred and put me in the hospital that morning. I was to have another mammogram, ultrasound and most importantly a biopsy of the lump. They both told me they hoped it was an abscess, but thought it was IBC.

January 13, 2016 is a day that changed my life. It was the day I was told with all the certainty in the world that I indeed had breast cancer. Stage III triple negative inflammatory breast cancer was the diagnosis. It was ugly and aggressive. That’s why my lump grew from 2 cm to 10 cm in only 6 weeks time. I also learned I was only one of 10% of women who actually present with a lump in IBC.

After that time, everything moved rather quickly. Since then, I’ve had 8 rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and 33 radiation treatments. As of December 2016, I’m currently NED ( no evidence of disease). Even though I am no longer in active treatment, I see my doctors every few months for blood work and scans. I was blessed to have a great support team, including my husband, family, co-workers, friends and my doctors. I’ve always been open to sharing my experience with IBC. Before then I had heard of many types of breast cancer, but not IBC. I’ve also lost family members to all types of cancer, including breast cancer.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve emphasized knowing what your normal is. Be observant of what’s going on in your body. And if there is something, push to be heard. Also since my time of diagnosis, I’ve become a fierce advocate and work to educate those around me.

Kiwana Thomas Gayden

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