By Alyce Collins
THIS STUNNING woman found a lump in her breast while applying an adhesive bra, but doctors told her it was NOTHING until she DEMANDED it be tested and was diagnosed with BREAST CANCER – resulting in intense chemotherapy that left her with memory loss, shortness of breath and muscle deterioration.
Culinary and hospitality publicist, Alexandria Whitaker (25) from Florida, USA, was getting ready for a night out with her friends in January 2018 when she noticed a lump in her breast. Alexandria remembered the lump the next morning and decided to get it checked to be sure it was nothing. However, Alexandria’s doctor soon dismissed her, saying that she was only 24 and had no family history of breast cancer so it was nothing.
Alexandria wanted a more thorough examination rather than a quick judgement, so she pushed to be given an ultrasound and mammogram later that week. Unfortunately, the ultrasound revealed an object in her breast, leading to the decision to carry out a biopsy in February 2018.
On February 8, 2018, Alexandria’s doctor, who initially was against her getting tests done, called to tell her that she had triple positive breast cancer. Alexandria was devastated but she immediately started meeting with new doctors and surgeons to begin treatment.
In March 2018, Alexandria began chemotherapy and simultaneously started her medically-induced menopause to preserve her fertility. Alexandria did five rounds of chemotherapy and hormone therapy for a year. Just two weeks after her first session, Alexandria started losing her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, she became weak, nauseous and suffered memory issues.
Having a double mastectomy was a straightforward decision for Alexandria once she completed chemotherapy because she struggled so much with the treatment and she knew that she couldn’t endure that again. Alexandria’s double mastectomy took place in July.
Despite the journey, Alexandria has learned to love her body more than she ever did before her diagnosis because it has fought so much to get her where she is today.
“I wasn’t even looking for a lump when I found it in January,” said Alexandria.
“I was getting ready to go out with my friends and I put on an adhesive bra. While smoothing it on, I felt the lump very clearly and knew that it wasn’t normal for my body.
“I didn’t think too much of it that night as I was ready to have a good night, but thankfully I remembered it the next morning. I was with one of my best friends who is a doctor, so I asked her to feel it. Neither of us was too concerned due to me being so young and having no family history, but we agreed that I should get it checked out for peace of mind.
“I went to my doctor, but she just said that because I was 24 with no family history and no personal history of cancer, that it was nothing. It made me feel pretty upset. I knew that this wasn’t something normal for my body and the doctor was dismissing me based on feeling alone.
“Now, I’m no medical professional, but you can’t know what’s going on inside someone’s body without doing some sort of test. Physical touch isn’t going to tell you much.
“I pushed for her to refer me for testing, though at the time I didn’t even know what that would entail. So, my first screening was an ultrasound, and at first they said they wouldn’t bother doing the mammogram after. However, they could see something, so they did the mammogram.
“The technician looked at it for a while and she said that she could see a shadow, so she was going to biopsy it. The biopsy was one of the most painful procedures of this whole experience. They didn’t numb me and there was a long needle inserted into my breast. My whole right breast was bruised for weeks after.
“After that, I received my diagnosis over the phone by my doctor as I was moving to my new apartment and driving 80 miles per hour. I still think it’s insane that’s how she told me.
“I was devastated and scared. I immediately burst into tears and called my mum, dad and fiancé, then my closest friends. I wanted them to know as soon as I did, and I’m so blessed to have an incredibly strong and fiercely loyal support team with me.”
Alexandria arranged countless medical appointments in the weeks that followed and started chemotherapy in March. Throughout her experience, Alexandria blogged about her experiences because the thought of helping others is what gave Alexandria purpose during the more difficult times.
After being told that her young age meant that she couldn’t possibly have cancer, Alexandria hopes that her journey will inspire other people to take control of their own health.
“I received four drugs during my chemotherapy infusions, Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin and Perjeta,” said Alexandria.
“After those initial rounds were completed, I continued to go in every three weeks for an infusion of Herceptin and Perjeta, two drugs that are hormone-targeting therapies. Since my cancer was triple positive, or in other words, being driven by all three of my breast hormones, I stayed on those therapies for a year and had my last infusion in March 2019.
“I also had a double mastectomy, reconstruction and am currently on a daily pill called Letrozole which also deals with regulating my hormone levels.
“Treatment affected me physically of course, like losing my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, feeling weak, nausea and exhaustion, but there were also emotional aspects that linger and can’t be seen.
“I’ve had memory issues, shortness of breath, loss of stamina and muscle deterioration, which has been really tough for me because I love working out and living an active lifestyle.
“I started losing my hair about two weeks after my first infusion, which was really surprising. It still makes me sad because I was one of those girls who loved their hair and losing it felt like losing part of my identity.
“My mastectomy was a simple decision for me. I know it’s a tough choice for many women, but I was adamant about having a double mastectomy versus a single mastectomy or lumpectomy.
“I was so young and healthy before, so my doctors and I were all on the same page about being as aggressive as possible with my treatment. I had such a rough time with chemotherapy that I knew I didn’t want to go through it again.
“Like with most things, it’s a journey to find confidence and to love myself again. However, when I think of all the battles my body has won to get me where I am today, I can’t help but love every inch.
“A lot of the time when I think back on the past year it feels like a bad dream. I’m so grateful for family and friends who were with me and I’m grateful for doctors who are relentless in their pursuit of giving me the best treatments possible.
“For other cancer warriors, I hope I can be a resource, a friend and a source of inspiration. For everyone else who hears my story, I hope I can inspire them to live their lives fully and to take control of their health.”