Alexandra Diagnosed at 29
Today I am 31 years old and have no evidence of disease. I'm a South Florida native. I was diagnosed in September 2015, at 29 years old. I had found my new lump, which was palpable and protruding from my breast. It can only be described as like a marble in my breast. I had been diagnosed with Fibroidenoma in my opposite breast and was routinely having ultrasounds performed on both breasts. The new marble-like lump had grown in a period of four months, and was not visible on my previous ultrasound. Pathology revealed the tumor to be an IDC ER+ PR+ HER-2+ tumor, which had spread to my auxiliary lymph node.
I began chemotherapy in October 2015, it consisted of Carboplatin, Taxotere, Herceptin, and Perjeta. February 26, 2016 I had a nipple sparing double mastectomy with tissue expanders placed. I had a complete pathological response at the time of surgery. I finished radiation in June of 2016, and then began Endocrine (hormone) therapy with Arimidex accompanied with Zoladex (ovarian suppression). I finished the process of breast reconstruction in October 2016.
Immediately after I had my last surgery, I went back to school to prepare to enter an RN Nursing program. I believe that becoming a nurse will be a great vehicle for me to heal and obtain closure from my experience; with an understanding of medicine, disease, and my body. Most importantly, I want to be an advocate for young women newly diagnosed. I want to stand beside my patient, and let them know I understand the darkness, the loneliness, and the anxiety of death. I want to let her know that it is okay to not love your new body, your new breasts. It's okay to grieve the loss of your breasts, your fertility. It's normal to not recognize your new body.
The weekend before I received my biopsy results, I dreamt that it was so. I dreamt of an old house, that the town avoided. A dark beautiful woman lived in this house, she was a witch. The dark wicked house had roaches infesting the old walls. In my dream, she laid me down beside her and comforted me, and cockroaches ran up my legs, she held me, and clearly told me not be afraid. And I felt love, and not afraid. When I awoke from the dream, I was startled and had a strange sense of clarity and said to myself, "It is breast cancer". The woman in my dream told me so.
Despite my struggles with medically induced menopause, I'm about to enter the Nursing program to become an RN. It has been tough supporting myself financially as a single breast cancer patient on a Starbucks income. I went back to school at 30 and took Chemistry and Anatomy & Physiology for the first time in my life. Even with my chemo-brain, I succeeded. Sometimes I worry about my future, regarding finding romance and a life partner. Or that my period may not ever return. Since I am single, I have decided to be a damn good nurse and serve others around me. In one year from now I will have completed two years of Arimidex and Zoladex treatment and will transition to Tamoxifen therapy alone. It is my deepest wish that my cycle returns. I also need a revision of my breast reconstruction performed, but I have been struggling finding plastic surgeons in Palm Beach County who take my plan and subsequently had surgeries canceled. I have learnt that this is not an uncommon occurrence, to need a revision done.
I hope to meet someone in my future, who will see how much of a strong bad-ass woman I truly am, and one who has the ability to laugh with me. While in treatment, to see the elderly undergo their chemotherapy alone, this made me want to become a nurse. It is such a unique experience to be in your 20s and 30s facing the aftermath of a breast cancer diagnosis. I joke and think of life before cancer as "B.C." It really does change you, it is a spiritual experience. It was the kick in the butt I needed to find my purpose. I had graduated college with a BA in Literature in 2009, and have worked for Starbucks for ten years. Everyday I realize I had made the best decision. I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life now. The path of a nurse has been chosen for me, I just had to intuitively look around me for clues.
Are you a survivor, spouse, friend, or caretaker with a story to tell? We'd love to hear from you.