BEVERLY — Liesl Voosen Fields, 35, was diagnosed last year with inflammatory breast cancer, also known as IBC. The disease accounts for only 1 percent to 5 percent of breast cancer and presents itself with symptoms such as redness, swelling, and tenderness in the breast — symptoms that mammograms don’t always detect. There often is no lump, and there is no early detection for IBC.
“And the prognosis and survival and recurrence rates for this type of cancer are much worse than typical breast cancer,” Fields said. “The five-year survival rate is somewhere between 25-50 percent for IBC.”
But Fields forged forward with an aggressive treatment. Her constant positive attitude inspired her family and friends from Calumet, a Lutheran summer camp in New Hampshire where Fields worked during her high school and college summers, to form Lutherans for Liesl, a team in the American Cancer Society’s annual Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk. The team raised $22,000 last year within weeks of the walk, earning recognition from the society as a Making Strides Pacesetter team. The team participated in this year’s walk, held Oct. 14, and is still accepting donations.
Originally from Auburn, she and her husband bought a house in Beverly in 2004, two years after they got married. She is the global senior Web producer at Bain & Company, a global management firm, and still works part-time.
Tell me about your diagnosis. Did you know something wasn’t quite right?
I first noticed some pink/redness on my left breast in the middle of the summer of 2011. I thought it was weird, but chalked it up to a summer rash and figured I’d “wait and see” what it did. It started to get worse and soon I suspected I had some sort of infection. I hadn’t nursed my daughter for a year at that point, but thought perhaps I had a blocked duct that got infected. My symptoms were consistent with mastitis, though I had no pain. The redness worsened, the breast was swollen and
the skin started pitting a bit. Then my nipple started to flatten and I knew I had to get to the doctor. My symptoms progressed pretty quickly, but I didn’t let myself Google anything online … I think somehow I knew that it might be more than just an infection. So, I waited until after my family’s vacation in August 2011 and searched the Internet the night we got back. That is when I first heard of IBC. I had all the classic symptoms. My heart sank. I knew this terrible, rare disease was exactly
what I had.