Royal Oak mom discovered breast cancer after her baby refused to breastfeed

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – A Royal Oak mom says her newborn baby may have saved her life after she refused to breastfeed.

Ellen Rabideau thought something might be wrong when her baby refused to latch and when she went to get checked, the doctors discovered breast cancer.

At 18, Rabideau discovered she had a BRCA gene mutation and was more at risk for breast cancer. Her mom and seven out of nine of Rabideau’s cousins have the gene mutation too. That’s after her two aunts died of breast cancer in their 40s.

On Mother’s Day in 2021, Rabideau gave birth to her first child, Tatum, but there were concerns a few weeks later when trying to breastfeed.

“My right breast became very swollen and large and extremely painful,” said Rabideau. “So at my six-week postpartum appointment, my OB-GYN said, ‘That just doesn’t look right.’ I think you might have mastitis or some type of more serious infection.”

A closer look revealed Rabideau had stage three inflammatory breast cancer.

“Inflammatory breast cancer is incredibly rare and aggressive, and there is never usually a lump to be found,” Rabideau said.

The discovery is why she refers to her daughter as the miracle they needed; not only did she change Rabideau’s life, but she saved it.

“She came at 37 weeks, a little bit on the early side,” Rabideau said. “I had had a clean mammogram in February. But they do think this may have started growing while I was pregnant, and so I really think that her coming early was the start of getting this ball rolling and finding my diagnosis.”

Rabideau is currently in remission, which she thought wasn’t possible after losing her maternal aunts to breast cancer. She had the same doctors as her aunts.

“Six months prior to her (Rabideau) diagnosis, there was what we call a practice-changing study that released data that showed that using these PARP inhibitor drugs in BRCA mutated patients gives better outcomes,” said Surgeon and medical director for the hospital’s breast center Dr. Nayana Dekhne.

Dekhne continued:

“I was able to at least provide her (Rabideau) with that information to say we have a better chance, Ellen. Your story is going to be different than every other family member in your family.”

Now there’s even more hope for the future.

“Hopefully, her daughter never has to deal with this, and by then, we find a permanent solution,” Dekhne said.

“To kind of rewrite the story for our family, I feel really lucky,” Rabideau said. “I’m just grateful that we had to have a different ending this time.”

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