OUR blogger Melanie O'Neill has two daughters and was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in May 2011.

Here she shares her latest thoughts on living with cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

My MRI was clear, thank God, and the PET scan showed a blockage at the top of my arm in my lymphatic system caused by cancer cells and the reason for my tight, swollen arm.

My oncologist wasn’t too concerned as he listed the available treatments I had left to choose from.

He unknowingly directed the conversation to my hubby, Carl, as Carl was making notes and listening intently whilst I sat there bamboozled by the content.

My damaged brain hurt understanding the new rules of the NHS and what I was and wasn’t allowed to have together according to them.

He instilled confidence in me as he talked knowledgeably about the different options I had.

I just smiled and nodded and kept asking what does he think my best option is.

Herceptin, an anti-cancer drug that works alongside chemotherapy for HER2+ cancer which I have, is almost definitely a must as long as I can raise enough money (£1800 every 3 weeks) to have it.

In the meantime he will put me on another chemotherapy to see if that will work well on its own.

I left the hospital that day with a pounding head and heart, thankful that he had a plan but anxious not knowing if it will work or not.

A few days prior to this appointment I was invited to go on holiday with my friend Jo to Miami.

So after getting the go ahead to go from my oncologist at this appointment and the luxury of having a credit card I booked myself on a flight to go to the sunny state in two weeks.

This amazing opportunity to go on a holiday where I have family living there too seems so surreal as it couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

It’s when things like this happen that I believe my Angels are watching over me as I don’t believe in coincidence.

Visiting my new born puppy on Sunday fills me with excitement, looking forward to everything from the journey to see him, our initial meeting and enjoying a family lunch out afterwards discussing our excitement.

Allowing my “grounded” teenage daughter and her sister to accompany me to a James Arthur concert last night took away my tight chest and left me feeling so happy as I sang my heart out whilst watching his incredible performance with my girls at my side singing their hearts out too.

Life is what you make it and although nothing and no one can take away the heavy burden I carry around with me on a daily basis, having things to look forward to lifts my spirits and takes my mind off worrying about myself and my future.

What you need to do during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

So as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is upon us we all need to take note and be aware of this disease that is affecting so many women.

Please be aware of the signs.

Breast cancer isn’t just a lump.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer often means there is no lump but swelling and redness and pain, orange peel-type skin and a leaking nipple along with itchiness.

Sometimes all of these things and in some cases only a few.

I was misdiagnosed by nine professionals in their medical field as it doesn’t show on a mammogram or ultrasound until it has spread further making it stage 4 and incurable.

The fear of god was put into me when I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer 8 1/2 years ago, from internet reading and research.

But then I found The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Network dedicated to providing the likes of myself correct and specific information when I need it most and the support of other members all wilIing me on to be ok and give me hope.

So although it is the most aggressive and fast spreading form of breast cancer, I am living proof that with the help of a great oncologist, the support of loving friends and family, and the will to succeed in life and make every moment count (along with making my kids the reason to carry on dealing with everything life keeps throwing at me and grasping opportunities when they land in my lap), you can get through it even if you’re only smiling for some of the time, it can be done.

Breast cancer signs and symptoms - what to look for

Common breast cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit – you might feel the lump but not see it
  • a change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
  • a change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
  • a change to the nipple, for example it has become pulled in (inverted)
  • rash or crusting around the nipple
  • any unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
  • changes in size or shape of the breast

On its own, pain in your breasts is not usually a sign of breast cancer. But look out for pain that’s there all or most of the time.

Noticing an unusual change doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer, and most breast changes are not because of cancer. But it’s important to get checked by your GP.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer - signs and symptoms

  • Symptoms of this rare form of cancer includes:
  • Swelling (edema) of the skin of the breast
  • Redness involving more than one-third of the breast
  • Pitting or thickening of the skin of the breast so that it may look and feel like an orange peel
  • A retracted or inverted nipple
  • One breast looking larger than the other because of swelling
  • One breast feeling warmer and heavier than the other
  • A breast that may be tender, painful or itchy
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the arms or near the collarbone

How to check your breasts

Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes. There’s no special technique and you don’t need training to check your breasts.

Check the whole breast area, including your upper chest and armpits.

Do this regularly to check for changes.

It’s as simple as TLC: Touch Look Check

  • Touch your breasts: can you feel anything unusual?
  • Look for changes: does anything look different?
  • Check any changes with your GP