Friendswood woman's advocacy wins resolution on inflammatory breast cancer
This week Friendswood resident Terry Arnold got the Texas Legislature to recognize the vicious and little-publicized form of breast cancer of which she's a survivor.
The Legislature adopted a resolution Wednesday naming October 2011 Inflammatory Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Despite all the publicity surrounding breast-cancer research in recent years, advocates say too few people know about inflammatory breast cancer, which doesn't cause lumps, can't be detected by a mammogram, and kills faster than any other form of breast cancer.
Arnold, who was born in Houston Heights and attended Aldine High School, is among the luckier people to have battled the disease. She was diagnosed with IBC in her right breast in August 2007 and eventually had to have a double mastectomy. Arnold is currently free of the disease but overall the picture is much more grim.
"Only 33 percent make it to the five-year mark," she says. "A lot of women don't even make it two years from diagnosis."
Arnold credits her survival to the IBC clinic at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Because a lot of doctors and patients don't know about the disease, and because it spread so quickly, it often isn't diagnosed correctly until it's too late.
"I wanted Texas to get its full due for what it had done for housing this rare cancer center," Arnold says. As a survivor, Arnold founded Terry's Map to track IBC patients all over the world.
She also began sending letters and making calls to legislators in Austin, but at first found it hard to make people understand the importance of IBC.
"You mention breast cancer and they kind of go, 'Well, we've done stuff,'" she says. "It took me a while to make them understand, I'm talking about something else."
Arnold says that as awareness of IBC spreads and more people know to ask their doctors about it, "I think they're going to find out that it isn't as rare [as people think].... this is something that impacts real young women. I was 49 when I was diagnosed, but a lot of women in their late 20s and early 30s get IBC."
Arnold went to the state capitol in Austin Wednesday to see legislators read the resolution. Those with her included Tim Jennings, a New Mexico State Senator who lost his wife to breast cancer, and who successfully sponsored a bill to secure funding for IBC research.
Sen. Joan Huffman authored the Senate version of the resolution, and the Rep. Carol Alvarado authored the House version. Arnold says State Comptroller Susan Combs also helped her advocate for the resolution in the legislature.
"I was really humbled that these movers and shakers were coming to support me in what I've done," she says.
Arnold says she hopes to testify before legislative committees, advocating for more state funding of IBC research, and advocating for insurance plans to cover more cancer checks than just routine mammograms.
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