The Greatest Love Story

Phil Willingham stepped into my office Friday afternoon to help with his cruise. Little that I know, his life story will change my life forever.  After Phil left, I just can’t stop thinking about it. There is this sadness in my heart that aches for his lost. And what he told me with teary eyes, to tell my loved ones how much I love them every single day because I might not have a chance to do that again.

Phil  lost his dear wife, Marilyn on  Dec. 11 of 2005 to Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). Phil became very emotional as he talked  about his wife and how much he misses her. Her death inspired d him to be a determined advocate to share the danger of this disease. “When she first contacted IBC we didn’t know what it was,” said Phil with tears. IBC is “the silent killer” because with this type of breast cancer, there is no lump, and it almost never shows up on a mammogram and most doctors misdiagnose it with Mastitis. That makes IBC silent and deadly.

Phil’s goal is to get as many people to know about it so we can save lives. Marilyn Willingham’s first doctor thought she had a bug bite on her breast and treated her for an infection. By the time she tried antibiotics and got the correct diagnosis, it was too late. Phil and Marilyn had never heard of IBC. They thought there was only one kind of breast cancer. They had no idea it was so deadly.

After Marilyn’s death, Phil vowed to warn as many people, men and women, as he could. He made contact with every state lawmaker or their staff and even traveled to  Washington, D.C.  Phil got the ear of breast cancer survivor Gov. Christine Gregoire. The governor has named October IBC Awareness Month.

This devoted husband, father, grandfather and former football coach knows it will help other families.

If you’d like to help you can donate to: Marilyn’s Fund for IBC Research P.O. Box 4486 Houston, TX 77210-4486, or simply call Phil to talk about what you can do or just to say Hi, 425-788-3734, 425-941-6435.

This is more information about ICB :
Common Symptoms:

  • a swollen breast
  • a painful breast
  • incessant itchy breast
  • a rash on one breast
  • a bug bite that won’t go away
  • nipple changes
  • a hardened area in the breast similar to a pencil lead, not a lump

These symptoms may appear overnight without warning. If they do not go away with creams, ointments or antibiotics, demand that your doctor rule out IBC.

Things You need to know: Mammograms usually don’t pick up IBC because so often there is no lump.  Insist to have  a needle biopsy.

Why  : Doctors misdiagnose Inflammatory Breast Cancer as a breast infection or mastitis.

Tips: These are TIPS that doctors and patients have given to people dealing with first symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer, plus TIPS from patients who have gone through chemotherapy.

  • Insist that your physician take your temperature at initial exam. Mastitis is often accompanied by an increase in body temp, while IBC is not.
  • Any sudden changes to your breast (sometimes overnight), swelling, constant itching, pain or discoloration need to be taken seriously. See your Doctor.
  • We are told to look for a lump. Not so normally with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. An overnight swelling of the breast, pain, itching that will not go away with creams or ointments, should be checked by a breast specialist. And please be your own best advocate. It could save your life.
  • Here is a link to decifering the results of your lab tests: LabTestsOnline
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    2 thoughts on “The Greatest Love Story

    1. We had the honor of knowing Marilyn before this disease robbed her of her life. She was a vibrant woman, colorful and full of life! Thank you so much for telling her story, and for providing Phils contact information. We lost touch after her death, and have been looking for Phil for years. THANK YOU for providing his contact information. And please, everyone, share the information about IBC.

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