Young mother of two battles stage 4 breast cancer
Earlier this year Paige Mize, a 28-year-old mother of two, was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. According to cancer.org, inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of cancer that only accounts for between 1-5% of all breast cancer diagnoses. Mize described the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer.
“With inflammatory breast cancer, you won’t necessarily find a lump because it’s just on the skin,” she said. “So you have symptoms such as swelling and redness.”
Mize said she developed symptoms in December of 2019, but ignored them at first thinking it was a simple case of mastitis, a condition with similar symptoms that most often affects breastfeeding mothers. Mize gave birth to her second daughter in March of 2019 and thought her symptoms were caused by mastitis. Even though she herself was not breastfeeding, mastitis is not exclusive to breastfeeding mothers.
By March her symptoms had not gone away, and that is when she first tried to get into to see a doctor. Unfortunately, when she first tried to get an appointment, she was unable to because of restrictions put in place because of coronavirus.
“Back in March right around the time coronavirus hit, I tried to get into the doctor and they told me to go to an urgent care because they weren’t seeing patients at the time,” Mize said. “In April I was finally able to get in, and we did three rounds of antibiotics because we just thought it was mastitis. None of them helped, so on around May 12 we had a biopsy done and it came back positive for breast cancer.”
Mize said she also had an MRI done around this time because she had been experiencing back pain. The MRI confirmed that the cancer had spread into her spine.
She got into MD Anderson in Houston and immediately began taking chemotherapy treatments there. She would drive down to Houston every three weeks to receive treatment and return to Oklahoma that day to recover. Last Tuesday she received what she is hoping will be her last chemo treatment.
“In two weeks, I’ll have an MRI and a CAT scan to see how the chemo did, and as long as the chemo did its job, we’ll schedule a mastectomy from there,” Maze said. “If it didn’t, we’re going to begin a much more aggressive type of chemo that will usually take care of whatever is left before we schedule surgery.”
Mize said doctors are hopeful the chemotherapy will also take care of the cancer on her spine, but if it does not she will also have surgery on her back.
Mize said her experience with chemotherapy has been difficult.
“I would feel really rough for about seven to 10 days after my treatments,” she said. “Then I would have about a week and a half where I would feel good, but then I would go back to Houston and start it all over again.”
She noted the entire experience has been especially difficult because she is trying to take care of two small children. Her youngest is now around 19 months old, and her oldest is four.
“It’s been really hard,” Mize said. “If my back wasn’t fractured, I think it would be easier, but with everything that’s been going on, it’s been tough. I can’t do every day normal things like laundry and dishes, and I can’t pick up my little one. It’s been rough.”
Another difficulty she has faced has been having to go in to take her treatments and see her doctors by herself because of restrictions put in place because of coronavirus.
“I’m the only one that can go to the appointments, so my husband isn’t able to go in with me,” she said. “When I go in to have the surgery, he will not be able to go with me. Thankfully, I’m able to FaceTime him during my appointments so he can also hear everything that’s going on.”
She urged all women to stay vigilant when it comes to their health.
“If you find a lump or if you think you have mastitis but you're not breastfeeding, you definitely need to get it checked out,” Mize said. “Don’t wait.”