Alicia fb

About me:
My name is Alicia. I am 40 years old. I’ve been married for 13 years to the most supportive husband. We have three wonderful children, aged 16, 12, and 6.

My breast cancer story:
In April 2022, I was in the shower and felt a lump in my left breast near my nipple. I mentioned it to my husband and he said you should get it checked out. I didn’t. I was 38, and it never crossed my mind that it was breast cancer, so I never thought to call the doctor. Breast cancer did not run in my family, and I didn’t even know the signs or what to look for.

A couple of years prior, I had a lump in my right breast that was checked out with a mammogram and ultrasound, and I was told it was a cyst. This time when I felt the lump in my left breast, I simply assumed it was the same situation. I went on with life. It was busy, and I wasn’t prioritizing myself. Every now and then, I would feel if the lump was still there. It was.

Months went by and in October of 2022 it was time for my physical. At the end of it, as we were about to say goodbye, I remembered the lump and mentioned it to my doctor. I remember it was the last thing I said as I didn’t think it was anything. She examined me and said, I don’t think it’s anything, but I’m going to send you for a mammogram. I got an appointment for Dec 30th.

When I went for the diagnostic mammogram, the technologist said, “I’m going to do an ultrasound too.” After the ultrasound, the radiologist said, “To be honest with you, this doesn’t look good.” She told me about the rapid diagnostic program at Sunnybrook. Soon after, I had a biopsy and the next day I went back to the hospital and a stranger gave me the results on January 19, 2023. “You have breast cancer,” she said. I was then handed a paper with a long list of appointments to attend over the next weeks.

I was in utter shock. How was this possible? Everything was a blur. Since I was triple positive, I was asked to do chemotherapy first. We cut my hair together as a family. It was hard for my children. My youngest wouldn’t come near me unless I had something on head. I was told I was Stage 2 and the oncologist described it as treatable and curable, and my family held on to those words. I held on to God.

I did chemo from February until June 2023. Then in July, I did a double mastectomy without reconstruction. Since I still had residual cancer cells after chemotherapy, I was put on Kadcyla. I have an immunotherapy infusion every three weeks for 30 minutes and will be done in May 2024.

One day you are “healthy” and then the next day its nonstop medicine and doctor’s appointments.

I’ve taken a leave of absence. When asked how I’m feeling, I’m doing better now than I was during the 6 months of chemo. I did a lot of crying, googling, watching YouTube and reading about all the things that can happen. I was seeing the bad news about recurrences, but I also had hope. Facebook support groups were a big help with information and navigating what I needed to do.

Physically, I’m tired and lack energy. I also have a lot of discomfort in my left armpit where lymph nodes were removed. I have developed a seroma where my left breast used to be, which also causes discomfort. I get hot flashes and have neuropathy in my finger tips from chemo. I’m on Exemestane tablets once daily. Chemo put me into menopause and the doctor wants to keep me in menopause so I also receive a shot of Zolodex in my stomach monthly to suppress my ovaries. I have to take Zometa every 6 months to protect my bones. Everyone assumes once you finish chemo, you are done, but there is so much more. This journey is nonstop. I am now putting myself first. I’m exercising, eating better, going to church, and speaking to a therapist. My outlook is positive. I’m holding on to Gods unchanging word. Faith over fear is my mantra.

What I want you to know

Don’t do what I did. Don’t think that you are too young or have no family history and that it can’t happen to you. Prioritize yourself. I put my husband, kids, and job first and I was last on the list. Otherwise, I would have gone to the doctor sooner. Do your self-exams and know your normal. Black women are at a higher risk; please know the signs. Early detection saves lives.