Adrian B. McClenney: The Story of a Fighter and Breast Cancer Survivor

My name is Adrian and I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed on May 19, 2011 with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer. I was 41 years old. 

I am so glad that I was persistent with the doctors about something being wrong with my body, because inflammatory breast cancer can be difficult to diagnose. I went from having having a little red itchy spot on my breast to having my entire breast become very painful, itchy, swollen, and hot. I had a large knot underneath my arm because the breast cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. By the time I had surgery, it had also spread to my chest wall. I could barely lift my arms; carrying my purse was a challenge. I had a hard time doing things like cooking because I kept dropping the bowls and pots. I knew something was wrong and I needed attention quickly. I sometimes spent 10-12 hours at the hospital, having all kinds of test to figure out what was going on with my body.  I was misdiagnosed for five months before being properly diagnosed because inflammatory breast cancer rarely shows up on mammograms.

Since my diagnosis, I have undergone 16 cycles of chemotherapy treatment, a double mastectomy, and the removal of 17 of my lymph nodes. I have had 37 cycles of radiation treatment. I have had a full hysterectomy and I have also had two breast reconstruction surgeries. I suffer from lymphedema, a painful condition that causes my arm to swell. This condition is a side-effect of my breast cancer treatment. I had to retire from work because of the different side-effects from the disease and treatment. 

My family was a great help for me while I was in treatment for this disease. Everyone did something that helped me get through my every day journey.   My husband was the most supportive of them all. I don't mean to be selfish, but I actually loved hearing them fight about who would be attending my medical appointments with me. This was not a easy task but there was no way that I was not going to fight. 

I also wanted to educate other women about the importance of breast health. During my treatment for breast cancer,  I started an affiliate chapter of Sisters Network Inc in Miami FL. Sisters Network is the only National African American breast cancer survivorship organization in the United States. I am the president of the Miami affiliate chapter. I am also a advocate for Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation. 

The one thing that I have learned through my battle with breast cancer is that we have to love each other while we can; life is really short. Every morning that we open our eyes, we have to focus on helping someone or doing something that will help. My experience has also taught me patience.  I find myself doing things like allowing individuals to skip me in grocery stores or even traffic.These simple things makes me feel good. 

To all women out their who may be facing or are worried about getting breast cancer, please know that we are unique and our treatment and risk factors may be different. Education is the key!!! 
We have to know our family history, particularly our family's history of cancer. My grandmother and great-grandmother both battled breast cancer. I also have a high rate of other cancers in my family, so I had genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 not long after my treatment. While I tested negative for these gene mutations, I am considering additional genetic testing that has recently become available for breast cancer. 

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