Talika Dennis-Carter

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In 2011 at just 31 years of age, Talika was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer that had already spread to her bones and her liver. She was given only 6 months to live but with an amazing attitude, the encouragement of her then 3-year old son, and an unbelievable support system Talika outlived her grim diagnosis by years and even managed to thrive despite the relentless cancer that had spread throughout her bones. One of Talika's famous phrases was "I may have breast cancer, but breast cancer doesn't have me!".

The 2016 Pink Ribbon Run is dedicated to the memory of this amazing woman who challenged everyone she met to find their P.I.N.K. For Talika, pink was not just a color. It stood for something much more important. She referred to it as the Power Inside Not Known... She credited her cancer for pushing her to find her inner strength tapping into her P.I.N.K. every day to fight the breast cancer invading her body, and use her remaining energy to keep up with her little one. Her zeal for life, and her positive attitude were nothing short of amazing.

Talika lived out the remaining years of her life with a promise to use her own diagnosis to uplift and support others. In 2013, despite not having hair, eyelashes, or eyebrows of her own, Talika started a cancer spa in an effort to help other patients feel pretty in the midst of a cancer battle. She was a firm believer that "When You Look Good, You Feel Good".

In 2014, Talika was served a second diagnosis of small cell lung cancer, but still she fought a long hard battle using her determination to see her son make it to another birthday. Talika's battle ended on February 28th, 2015 but her spirt and her joyful heart will forever live on as one of our favorite moms and volunteers.

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What’s So Different about Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

You may think of breast cancer as starting with a lump in the breast, but not every type of breast cancer does. Inflammatory breast cancer is a form of the disease that affects the skin of the breast. It’s rare, accounting for only one to five percent of all breast cancer cases, according to the National Cancer Institute. Yet inflammatory breast cancer is also hard to diagnose, and it can spread very quickly and aggressively.

Early Warning Signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

With Inflammatory breast cancer the most prevalent warning sign is changes in the skin... not lumps.

Normally in breast cancer, cancer cells form into a lump. Sometimes a woman can feel this lump during a breast self-exam, or a mammogram can detect it. Instead of clumping together in the breast, inflammatory breast cancer cells crowd into lymph vessels.

Lymph vessels are small channels that hold a liquid (lymph) that helps the body fight infections and filter out harmful substances. When cancer cells block the lymph nodes, they make the breast skin change color or texture.

Redness of the breast is the first sign women often notice in inflammatory breast cancer. In some women, the color turns a pink or purple shade. It can even resemble a big bruise. The color will cover one-third or more of the breast surface, and the area may feel sore or warm to the touch.

Redness and swelling are also signs of a breast infection called mastitis. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, and women are diagnosed with an infection and given antibiotics when they actually have inflammatory breast cancer.

Treating the wrong condition can delay the care needed to treat breast cancer. Doctors can determine whether it’s cancer by removing cells from the breast and examining them under a microscope during a biopsy.

Along with the color change, the skin of the breast may take on a different texture. It often looks pitted or ridged, like the peel of an orange. Sometimes this is called peau d’orange, which means “orange skin” in French.

The dimpled appearance is created when cancer cells block the lymph vessels under the skin, forming tiny bumps and ridges.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a fast-growing disease. Women who have this cancer will notice rapid changes—usually in one breast. The breast can change appearance and size in a matter of weeks.

One breast that grows quickly and becomes larger than the other breast can be a sign. The enlarged breast also might feel firmer and heavier than usual.

Some women have nipples that naturally turn inward from time to time. These are called inverted nipples, and they’re usually nothing to worry about.

But only one inward-turned nipple or nipples that stay that way could be signs of inflammatory breast cancer. Your doctor should check out this symptom with a breast exam, mammogram, or biopsy to rule out breast cancer.

Lymph nodes are small, round structures that are part of the body’s immune system. They’re full of white blood cells and other infection-fighting cells. Usually when the lymph nodes are swollen, it’s because you have an infection. Yet cancer also can cause swelling in these nodes. Women with inflammatory breast cancer will usually find swollen lymph nodes under their arm, or near the collarbone.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer can mimic those of other conditions—especially infection. Often women don’t realize they have this form of breast cancer until it has spread. Because this is a very fast-growing form of cancer, it’s important to be alert to symptoms like redness, swelling, and inverted nipples. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have these symptoms.