Yay! I'm so glad you made it! I'm starting my first of many blog posts, by sharing something personal with you. My hopes in sharing my story is to bring awareness, positivity and strength to those who have lost their battle, those who have won their battle, and those who are still fighting.
As I sit here trying to piece together words of my journey
with Breast Cancer to share with you all, I look up from my computer screen and see toys scattered throughout my living room floor. Something that before becoming a mom would drive me insane and send my OCD through the roof (and let’s be honest, I’m still working on not jumping up to put everything back in its place) but now, as I see this beautiful mess, it brings a sense of calm and comfort over me. It’s where our little boy spends his days creating memories, where he is beginning to explore and find adventure, and learn new skills, so for now, I’ll leave them be, because 4.5 years ago I wasn’t so sure what my future held. I wasn’t certain of anything, especially if my dream of having a family of my own would ever become a reality.
It was Easter Day, I was rushing home from work to meet my, now husband Dylan, at home so we could get ready and head to my sisters for dinner. I was in a happy, newish relationship, loving my new job, and all felt right in the world. That is until I felt something in my left breast that would forever change my life. I remember thoughts flooding my head after discovering this hard lump, what could this be, how long has it been there, and the scariest thought of all, what if its cancer? Everyone I talked to assured me I was so young and it was likely nothing. I made an appointment anyway to have a doctor check things out, better safe than sorry I thought. I luckily was able to get in to see my OBGYN the very next morning. He told me to make an appointment at the hospital to get an ultrasound. As I was leaving his office, I remember him saying he would be really surprised if the doctors asked to biopsy the area tomorrow, meaning that wasn’t the direction we wanted to head in.
The next day my sister came with me to the hospital, my parents were out of town, and I told Dylan not to take off work, it was just a quick appointment. The tech performed the ultra sound and left the room to share the images with a doctor. Minutes later she came back in and said they wanted to biopsy the area. Tears flooded my face because I remembered what my OBGYN had said to me, and I knew in my gut this was bad news. The biopsy and mammogram had to be done the next day because appointments were booked. So I put my clothes back on and left.
Wednesday morning, I should have been home packing, as Dylan and I had planned to vacation in Charleston SC Thursday- Sunday, and since results wouldn’t be back until Monday decided to still take our trip, but I was back at the hospital. This time I arrived with both Dylan and my sister. It was biopsy day. No one was allowed in the room with me except the doctor, nurses, tech, and a student who was there to learn. I remember them asking me what music I wanted to listen to while the procedure was being done, 90’s radio, duh, Thank you Alanis Morissette and Jewel for getting me through this hard time.
The biopsy took forever, 9 needles being stuck in my breast to collect samples of the mass, blood dripping down my boob, and tears rolling down my face, I just wanted it to be over, and more importantly I just wanted my mom. After the biopsy was completed, it was now time for a mammogram. My boob was so sore and yet the worst wasn’t over. If you’ve never had a mammogram its not a very pleasant experience, your boob is being flattened like a pancake between two plastic like plates to collect images of your breast tissue and surrounding area. I just stood there and cried trying not to move or breathe because they wouldn’t get the pictures they needed, and thinking this day would never end.
After 4 amazing days down South, we returned home Sunday night, and it was back to work Monday morning for us both, while still waiting for the results. I was on my lunch break when I received the call from my OBGYN’s office saying that my doctor had my results and wanted me to come into his office today to discuss. Panic took over my body, if it was good news- wouldn’t they just say it to me over the phone? Why were they asking me to leave work to come see the doctor? I called my parents and told them I was told to go to the doctors which was right by their house, a 30 minute drive for me. My dad met me at our apartment and drove me to the appointment, with my mom. Dylan was still at work, and I told him I would just keep him posted after we left the doctors. We waited in a room for what felt like hours, but was probably closer to 15 minutes. The doctor moved us from the patients room to his office. My file was in his hand. I sat in-between my parents and my doctor looked at me and said “I’m so sorry Alexa, it’s cancer.” To be honest everything after that was a blur. I broke down in my dads arms. I heard my doctor explain to my parents what the next steps would be, he made an appointment with an oncologist for us tomorrow, the very best he promised us. My head was spinning, an oncologist? I’m 25, this can’t be happening. I left the office in tears, I didn’t say a word in the elevator, and when I got to the car I called Dylan and managed to get the words out, I have breast cancer. He immediately left work and met me at my parents house.
I was sitting upstairs in my old bedroom, when he walked in. We had only been officially dating for under a year, he was 23, I was 25 and this was NOT the future I saw for us. I told him that my life was about to change, and that I did not expect anything from him. This was going to be a long journey for me, both mentally and physically and I told him I would never hold it against him if he wanted to walk away. He looked me in the eyes and said Im not going anywhere.
You know how people ask, how did you know he was THE ONE? Well this moment right here and all the moments after this were how I knew. He didn’t stop to think about it, he never said this was too much for him, he never doubted me, or us, and for that I am forever thankful for his unconditional love.
My doctors wanted to be aggressive with my treatment since I was so young, which meant chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation, and preventative medicine and shots for the next 10 years. Over the next few weeks, I was at more doctors appointments than you could imagine, surgical oncologist, medical oncologist, plastic surgeon, fertility offices, genetic testing- you name it, I’ve been.
Luckily with the type of cancer I had my doctor allowed for surgery first, followed by a round of IVF to freeze my eggs, then Chemotherapy, followed by reconstructive surgery and radiation.
I opted for mastectomy, even though I tested negative for BRCA1, because I ultimately chose my life over my boob and it was a decision I thought long and hard on. I was 25 I loved the way my body looked, I was in good shape, in a new relationship and I feared what I would look like after the surgery, but in the end my health mattered most. Dylan was more than supportive and agreed it was the safest option in ensuring this doesn’t come back. Surgery was scheduled two weeks later and lasted an entire 6 hours, but I was deemed officially cancer free on that day, May 22, 2017. My mom said my surgeon came out to tell my family the surgery was over, and she had tears in her eyes as she hugged my mom and said we got it all. I get goosebumps writing this because I feel so fortunate to have had the best group of doctors surrounding me and treating me.
Two weeks later, it was time to start IVF I felt like I had no choice, I knew I wanted a family one day and in case the chemo damaged anything I would have my frozen eggs to rely on. IVF is hard mentally and physically, but we did it. Dylan gave me shots, and I learned to give myself shots, which was harder than I thought it would be, I had bruises all over my stomach and butt where the shots were given, but after a few weeks it was done. Finally it was egg retrieval day. It was a great success and we got the number we wanted to to freeze. With all the good news, it was still hard to be excited because I knew this meant chemo was about to begin in less than two weeks.
I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore about chemo, the thought of throwing up everyday, being tired and weak, and losing my hair, left me with a pit in my stomach every single day. My mom called one day with some good news and said she had been reading about something called arctic cold caps, a new innovative way for patients to try and keep their hair during chemo. Let’s do it I said, eager to try anything to keep some part of me feeling “ normal.” What they don’t tell you is how hard and painful the cold caps are. Its a cap that you wear that freezes your scalp to prevent hair loss. The caps temps at about -30 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, yes you read that right, negative 30-40 degrees. You have to wear them for 8+ hours during chemo, which includes the drive home, and 2 hours after, It was torture. The strap around your chin to keep the cap secure to your scalp was so tight you could barely open your mouth to talk or eat. The days were long and painful.
Chemo lasted 5 months all in all. I did 16 rounds of chemotherapy- 4 rounds of really intense chemo that were bi weekly, and 12 round of weekly treatments. I never threw up throughout my treatments, I lost a lot of hair, but never went bald. My eyelashes were gone, and my eyebrows so faded you could barely see them, but I did it.
November 2, 2017 was my last chemo, (four years ago to this day) we celebrated with a big Pink Party, and combined it with a housewarming party too, as two months prior Dylan and I closed on our first home together. Chemotherapy, IVF, and one surgery was behind me. I still had reconstructive surgery, radiation, and physical therapy to go, but it felt manageable after all I had just been through the last 6 months.
Fast forward to May 2018, the day after my birthday, Dylan popped the question, after all we had been through we made it, and we made it out stronger than ever. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind this was the man I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. We wed 30 days later with our closest family around us under a gazebo in a fairytale garden, and it was the happiest day of my life.
We always knew we wanted to have a family, but because of the medicine I was put on, I was told I had to wait 2 years for clean scans before getting off and trying. Finally the day came.
After two MRI’s, a Cat Scan, Brain Scan, and Mammogram, my results came back clean, and my doctor felt safe taking me off my medicine and gave us the green light to start trying for a baby! Three months later, 4 days after Christmas on December 29th I woke up and decided to take a pregnancy test. I was 4 days late, feeling super bloated and was anxious to see. I wanted to do it alone because if it was positive I wanted to surprise Dylan with the news. Just minutes after peeing on the stick there it was, clear as day those two pink lines I had dreamed of. I immediately burst into tears. Within 3 months of trying- we did it, we were about to become mom and dad. My body had been through so much and yet here I was pregnant, I was going to be able to carry my baby inside of me, something I feared the cancer had stolen from me. Nine months later on August 27th, 2020 we welcomed the most perfect beautiful healthy baby boy, and our lives were and still are forever changed in the best way possible.
However, just because the cancer is gone, the surgeries are over, and chemo had ended doesn’t mean I’m free. I still have scan-xiety, I still take medicine daily, followed by a shot every 28 days as a preventative, I still have the scars, and fear of reoccurrence. My journey is not over, the book is not closed, but for now that chapter is. I’m thankful everyday I’m able to wake up and spend it with my family.
So, my advice to anyone going through something they feel is impossible to get through, you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. Surround yourself with people who love and support you, and laugh a lot, those are the things that saved me.
Thanks for your love, support, and following along with me on this journey.