Alison is 29. She’s a wife, mother, chiropractor and small business owner. She’s also a cancer patient.
In the spring of 2015, Alison didn't feel like herself. She was easily fatigued and had an inner "feeling" that something "just wasn't right.” Several blood tests, scans and consults later ... nothing. The only thing that appeared on lab work was high lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell, which is usually indicative of an infection but could be an autoimmune disease or cancer).
More rounds of tests … and still nothing. A few months later, Alison decided to get her yearly breast MRI, which she had been putting off. You may wonder why a 29 year old needs a yearly breast MRI. Breast cancer plagues Alison’s family. Her mother, aunt and multiple cousins are breast cancer survivors. They have the BRCA1 gene. Alison knew her odds for developing cancer were high, but never did she imagine at the age of 29 she would have to face her biggest fear.
Alison’s suspicions that something wasn’t right were confirmed. After an ultrasound and biopsy, Alison was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, grade three of three (rapidly dividing) and "triple negative" (negative for estrogen, progesterone and her2 receptors).
Alison left that day feeling angry and alone. Yes, she had several family member who had gone through it, but they were done having kids. She wanted another child. The next few days, she had to meet with an oncologist, surgeon, plastic surgeon and fertility specialist. She felt like her whole world crumbled to pieces.
“Cancer? Fine,” said Alison. “I can't believe I have cancer at my age, but I got this! Surgery? Yes, it sucks but I got this! Chemo? Ugh, if I must, I got this! BUT thinking of not being able to have another child?! It's crushing! DEVASTATING!”
A thousand questions and scenarios ran through her head. Would she be able to have another child? If she did have another baby, she wouldn’t be able to breastfeed if she chose a mastectomy. If she chose a lumpectomy, would the cancer return? What would the cancer do to her body? She was forced to make major life-altering decisions in just 48 hours.
Since her diagnosis, Alison has undergone a double mastectomy with reconstruction, chemotherapy, fills for expanders, radiation and will receive final implants in 2018. She has been putting herself out there so other young women know they are not alone.
Through all of this she still feels blessed to have a family and friend support system. She understands how fortunate she is to have the support, as many women do not.
“My main motto and phrase: Keep up with your health and do your monthly breast exams,” said Alison. “ Eight out of ten women find a lump themselves! Be your own advocate and listen to your inner "feeling" ... you know your body better than anyone. Trust yourself. I'm glad I did.