A disease that affects approximately one in eight women in the United States, breast cancer is personal to each of us. Early detection remains the key to beating breast cancer today. While you may think, “I’m a young mom,” we know that breast cancer does not discriminate. It can affect healthy women at any age.
We’ve shared several other articles about Breast Cancer on DMMB:
And there are numerous others throughout our network of sister sites in our City Moms Blog Network.
This is the story of a friend’s journey.
Pregnancy is a time filled with a million things “new” – changes to our bodies, hormones, and so much more. Can you imagine welcoming your brand new baby into the world, then receiving a breast cancer diagnosis a few days later?
My friend Aimee was that young mom.
Aimee Krug was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. Her smile was contagious, her spirit generous, uplifting, encouraging. She was always a light to those around her. Her love and zest for life and her family and others was unmatched. She truly lived life, and spent it giving to others. Her impression upon my life is so profound, and yet I only knew her a short time. I can’t begin to imagine her family’s life living without her for the last 5 ½ years.
I want others to know a small piece of Aimee’s “story” to bring awareness, inspire courage, and give hope.
I asked Aimee’s husband to reflect upon her diagnosis, her positive spirit throughout her journey, and their family’s life without her.
Share a little bit about Aimee’s diagnosis.
When Aimee was seven months pregnant, she noticed her nipple was inverted and saw redness in the tissue around it. She inquired with her OB, but they said it was likely her milk coming in. Unfortunately (yet fortunately), Aimee experienced placenta previa and had a C-section, so sweet Brooke was delivered early. Aimee inquired about the redness again when breastfeeding after delivery, and the nurse agreed something wasn’t right. Knowing the importance of moving quickly, Aimee had an ultrasound and mammogram, and the radiologist notified the surgeon within the day. She was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and started treatment within a week – all this while her sweet preemie was still in the hospital.
What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and extremely aggressive type of breast cancer. According to The National Cancer Institute, “Inflammatory breast cancer accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States. Inflammatory breast cancer progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months. Inflammatory breast cancer is either stage III or IV at diagnosis, depending on whether cancer cells have spread only to nearby lymph nodes or to other tissues as well.”
This type of cancer attacks the lymphatic ducts and is often difficult to diagnose because the individual doesn’t ever feel a lump – they often only see redness in the breast tissue. Because of that, it is often misdiagnosed and treatment is delayed. The prognosis of those diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer is much different than that of other types of breast cancer.
How did Aimee approach her diagnosis and treatments?
I remember looking over Aimee’s shoulder when we got the results. Being a nurse myself, I saw the percentage of survival at 3 percent over 5 years, and I just broke down. We had just adopted Kiera who was 18 months old, we had a brand new baby, and I was going to lose my wife. Aimee, on the other hand, accepted what was ahead of her. She knew her job was to get the treatments done as quickly as possible.
She went through seven different types of chemo over 3 ½ years, had her breast, ovaries, and uterus removed, yet she finished each round of treatment and bravely faced the next one. Even in the middle of the worst times when the cancer had spread to her brain, she would still say, “There is always someone way worse off than me.”
Aimee was selfless. She was always thinking of others. She continued to teach her oboe students even up until three weeks before she died. She was adamant about looking for a wife for me, a mom for the kids, and wanted to be sure I would be taken care of when she was gone. She lived life fully until her very last day.
What is something others can do to support a family experiencing breast cancer?
Sometimes it isn’t something you do, but just being there. Listening. Sharing a hug.
Of course meals were helpful. Or taking the kids out on activities so we could spend time together. But moreso, it was just recognizing the reality of our life through treatments and that our life was filled with hearing unfavorable diagnoses. It wasn’t asking what we needed, but just being there for us and simply taking the bull by the horns and doing something.
People often thought I didn’t want them to talk about Aimee, but that was so wrong. I loved hearing people talk about her. Remembering things about her. Sharing the ways she touched their lives. I still love hearing it. She is part of our everyday life still, and knowing that people haven’t forgotten her means a lot. I love that people remember her birthday or our anniversary. This year would have been our 20th year together. We try to honor her in every part of our life, and so many little things that happen are gentle reminders she is still with us.
How did you and the girls find hope after losing Aimee?
The first year was especially hard. I was bitter. People would say, “But she’s in a better place.” That was never easy or what I wanted to hear. She didn’t want to die. Her life was with us. Our life was happy and things were perfect. But a friend reminded me that I was blaming the wrong person – that it wasn’t God but that cancer was the devil that was taking her from us. I finally learned to be thankful that we had the time we had with her because it could have gone so much quicker. I admire her strength and courage. I admire her love of life and faith throughout all of it. And I know now that she is in a better place – dancing with angels!
Aimee’s biggest worry was leaving me alone to raise our two daughters. She would look for single women who could be a wife to me and mother to our girls. I didn’t want to think of ever marrying anyone else or ever living without her. But she always told me that I needed to find someone. She would pray for someone perfect for me.
Three years after Aimee passed I met Katie. Through a whole turn of events (orchestrated by God and Aimee), I knew she was the one for me and for the girls. Katie has filled our life with joy and love and hope. Today, Kiera is 11 and Brooke, 9, and we are excited to welcome a baby boy in spring 2016.
I’m so grateful to Adam for spending time talking with me. We both encourage you to
- know your risk factors,
- have healthy habits that reduce those,
- know your body,
- perform monthly breast exams,
- pay attention to symptoms and signs, and
- address any health concerns with your doctor.