When Jennifer Cordts spotted a rash on her breast in early 2015, she didn’t think much of it. But what she assumed was a simple bra irritation turned out to be something much more deadly: breast cancer.
It’s understandable that the 46-year-old never saw it coming, especially as doctors were continually convinced that nothing was wrong. When she first spotted the pink and red rash on her breast, it didn’t have any lumps, but she decided to visit a doctor anyway. He reassured her that simple antibiotics could cure her skin inflammation.
“He just kind of said, ‘I don’t see what you see,’ recalled Cordts. “And I was like, ‘If you aren’t worried, then I’m not either.'”
In the following weeks, Cordts knew something was terribly off when she began experiencing a searing pain in her breast that shot down her arm. Despite the discomfort, after she underwent a mammogram, her blood tests came back fine.
For 11 months, she tried everything to get rid of the rash, even switching out her bra when her gynecologist suggested that it could be the cause of the rash. Still, nothing seemed to be helping.
Fed up with her fruitless efforts, Cordts Googled her discolored skin and discovered that it could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer. And, finally, after seeking out a specialist, her MRI scan returned the results she had been dreading: stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. By this time, the cancer had spread to her bones and liver, putting Cordts’ life expectancy at three to five more years.
Although devastated by her diagnosis, the mother-of-two is now using her story to help others detect this deadly disease before it’s too late.
“I’d live longer if they had caught it earlier, but that isn’t my journey,” she told the DailyMail.co.uk. “But it can be the next person’s journey. Going to the doctor is scary. Going to the doctor with what you think is cancer is terrifying. I’m teaching [people] to advocate for themselves and push harder for answers.”
Cordts also revealed that her original doctor was informed of the misdiagnosis and encouraged to learn more about rare types of cancer—including her own, which makes up about one percent of all cancer cases.
Currently, Cordts has seen improvement in her cancer after undergoing a mastectomy, as well as chemotherapy and radiation. These treatments won’t cure the disease, but they will stop it from spreading and give her more time to live.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Cordts during this difficult time. If you suspect you may have inflammatory breast cancer, see a doctor immediately.
Common signs of inflammatory breast cancer include:
having an orange-peel texture
the appearance of hives, bruises, or discoloration
swelling of the lymph nodes
flattening or inversion of the nipple
aching or burning
Check out these surprising cancer facts.
NEXT: See which celebs are cancer survivors.
Edie Falco: Breast cancer, 2004 Falco kept her treatment a secret from her Sopranos co-stars. “Surviving cancer has a way of making you re-prioritize," she's said. In her case, it meant starting a family.
Kathy Bates: Ovarian cancer, 2003; breast cancer, 2012 The actress kept her cancer a secret but after her double mastectomy, she told People magazine: "Breast cancer runs like a river through my family.
Fran Drescher: Uterine cancer, 2000 It took two years and eight doctors before the Nanny star was finally diagnosed. After the experience, she wrote a book and started a cancer foundation.
Rod Stewart: Thyroid cancer, 2000 The rock icon got lucky when his cancer was discovered during a routine scan. He lost his voice for three weeks, and now sings an octave lower than he used to.
Carly Simon: Breast cancer, 1997 After a lumpectomy and chemotherapy, the singer told the New York Daily News she was "stronger than ever. I've always thought of myself as a warrior."
Sheryl Crow: Breast cancer, 2006 The singer, then 44, had just broken up with Lance Armstrong when doctors discovered a tumor. After treatment, she adopted two boys.
Sharon Osbourne: Colon cancer, 2002 The reality TV star had one foot of her colon removed. After discovering she carried the gene for breast cancer, she had a double mastectomy.
Hugh Jackman: Skin cancer, 2013, 2016 Jackman was filming X Men when a makeup artist pointed to a red mark on his nose. It turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. He now gets skin checks every three months.
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro: Prostate cancer, 2003 De Niro, then 60, credited his complete recovery to early detection.
Christina Applegate: Breast cancer, 2008 The actress was only 36, but she had the BRCA gene mutation--her mom was a breast cancer survivor. She opted for a double mastectomy.
Michael C Hall
Michael C. Hall: Hodgkin's lymphoma, 2010 Hall used a break during Dexter to go through treatment. Getting a Golden Globe two-thirds through it gave him a "shock of positive energy."