This summer Nelson was on vacation with her husband and 18-month-old son when she noticed a swollen lymph node in her neck. Since she didn't have a fever, she wondered what was going on.
Within two days, there was a cord forming from the lymph node down to her breast. Nelson knew something was wrong. She was still breast feeding her son and was in the process of weaning him, and she wasn't aware of any lumps in her breast.
As soon as she got home, she called her doctor and her obstetrician. By this time, her breast was enlarged and very painful. Nelson remembered an e-mail she was sent a few years back about inflammatory breast cancer (also known as IBC) and the symptoms associated with it.
One week later, Nelson underwent a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. She knew her instincts were right.
"I knew it was cancer, so I was researching on the Internet the whole night before, because I knew once I had the diagnosis, I would fall apart," Nelson said.
Three weeks after her first symptoms appeared, Nelson was meeting with an oncologist. Dr. Virginia Borges at the University of Colorado Cancer Center credits Nelson with saving her own life.
"She did the right thing, with recognizing something was not right, she got into her doctors right away, which is what we want to see," Borges said.
Nelson started chemotherapy treatments the day after she met Borges. With inflammatory breast cancer, doctors want to begin chemotherapy as soon as possible, and then follow it up with surgery and other treatments.
Borges offered this additional information about IBC: "It is a relatively rare form of breast cancer. We encounter maybe 5 percent of our breast cancer cases each year as inflammatory. It comes on mimicking an infection. The breast can become red, it can become hot to the touch, it can become swollen and skin of the breast can actually start to look like what we call the peel of an orange."
Another key piece of information Borges hopes to make women aware of is that aggressive forms of breast cancer can happen in young women in the postpartum years, particularly when they are finished nursing or are in the process of weaning their child.
Borges and her partner Dr. Pepper Schedin are two of the country's leading researchers on breast cancer in young women. They are doing some cutting edge research in order to find out why some women are seem to be more susceptible to breast cancer in the months after giving birth.
Nelson just finished her last round of chemotherapy and will undergo surgery later this month. She will begin 33 rounds of radiation in January. She has a deep faith and a strong family support network.
"I have asked God why, but I know he's taking care of me, so I'm comforted by that. I'm comforted," she said.
To learn more about Nelson's story, go to http://www.mylifeline.org/meganwalbridge/.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)