WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me & the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Jenee Bobbora, 39, lives in the Houston area. When she was 32 years old, Bobbora says she woke up one day with a painfully swollen left breast. She consulted her gynecologist, thinking it might be because she had recently started taking birth control pills.
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Bobbora says that doctor dismissed her request to get a referral for a mammogram, and she was angry about it. So her mother called a friend who had had breast cancer. That led to an appointment with a breast surgeon who said Bobbora's swelling was likely caused by an infection.
"He said there is this rare type of cancer called inflammatory breast cancer that you could have, but it's probably an infection. Go take your antibiotic and call me in a week," Bobbora says.
But Bobbora noticed her breast symptoms were worsening, not improving, and her breast was "starting to look a little red." So she called the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, told them she thought she might have inflammatory breast cancer, and got her diagnosis.
Bobbora's cancer was in her lymph nodes under her arm and in her collarbone area, and she had a 4-centimeter tumor and another 2-centimeter tumor in her left breast.
"It was truly unbelievable," Bobbora says. "When I was in there and they were telling me, the news just kept getting worse -- 'You have breast cancer, and it's this really rare kind, and it's very aggressive.'"
Her treatment: Genetic testing showed that she had a BRCA2 gene mutation linked to breast cancer; several relatives on her father's side of the family had the same mutation. So Bobbora had no qualms at all about getting both breasts surgically removed -- a double mastectomy.
"It was like, here's what you need to do, and I really did not want to die," Bobbora says.