After finding a lump in her chest in January 2018, Alexandria Whitaker did what we were all told: see your doctor.
But that simple step got complicated somehow.
Alexandria, then 24 years old from Orlando, Florida, was wiped off.
It cannot be sinister at all, her doctor said, because you are 24.
For that reason, the doctor explained, there was no point in taking away her worries.
While most of us tend to accept the judgment of a doctor, trust in the medical profession has fallen dramatically in recent yearsand Alexandria was among the skeptics.
She insisted on a scan, which revealed a mass, which caused a biopsy, which revealed phase 1 triple positive breast cancer – in other words, powered by all three of its breast hormones – in February 2018.
Alexandria Whitaker, now 25, from Orlando, Florida, was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in February 2018. At first, her doctor said it wasn’t worth looking at because she was 24 (photo, left, before her diagnosis) with no family history of breast cancer. After she urged her doctors to take her concerns about her lump seriously, a mammogram revealed cancer
In July, she decided to undergo a double breast amputation and reconstruction – a simple decision for Alexandria once she had completed chemotherapy, out to eliminate any risk that her cancer could prevent again, and desperate not to undergo chemo again
“I was destroyed and scared. I immediately burst into tears and called my mother, father and fiance, then my best friends. I wanted them to know right away, and I am so blessed to have an incredibly strong and very loyal support team with me, “Alexandria said. Pictured: Alexandria with Timmy, her fiancé
“I wasn’t even looking for a lump when I found it,” Alexandria said.
She was getting ready to go out with her friends and put on a self-adhesive bra.
As she smoothed it out, she felt the lump, very clearly, and knew it was not normal for her body.
“I didn’t think too much about it that night,” said PR, Alexandria, “I was ready for a good night, but luckily I remembered it the next morning.”
One of her best friends, who is a doctor, felt it and agreed that it felt solid, but neither of them was worried. Alexandria was so young – breast cancer is most common in women over 55 – and she had no family history. But they agreed that she should have it checked.
The abrupt discharge of her doctor surprised her.
“I felt quite upset. I knew this was not normal for my body and the doctor fired me because I felt alone. I am not a medical professional, but you cannot know what is happening in someone’s body without doing some kind of test. Physical touch won’t tell you much, “said Alexandria.
She insisted on testing, not sure what kind of tests she would need, but certainly that she needed something more than an inspiration.
Her first screening was an ultrasound, and when she came in she was told that they would not do a mammogram afterwards.
That changed when the technician saw a clear mass on the screen.
The mammogram showed a shadow and the technician ordered a biopsy, which Alexandria describes as “one of the most painful procedures of this entire experience.” “They didn’t sedate me and there was a long needle in my chest. My entire right breast was bruised for weeks afterwards, “she said.
That physical pain was followed by an emotional blow delivered by phone while she was in the car at 80 miles per hour.
She moved and her doctor called.
Naturally intrigued, Alexandria picked up. Due to HIPAA laws protecting patient privacy, doctors rarely provide sensitive information over the telephone. But this case was an exception.
“I still think it’s insane,” she told me, “Alexandria said. “I was destroyed and scared. I immediately burst into tears and called my mother, father and fiance, then my best friends. I wanted them to know right away and I am so blessed to have an incredibly strong and very loyal support team with me. “
As soon as she was diagnosed, Alexandria immediately began meeting new doctors and surgeons to begin treatment
There are different types of tumors that grow in the breast, depending on which hormones they feed.
Each type can be more likely in certain age groups or demographics, they can be more aggressive and each type is treated differently, with different hormonal treatment.
The most elusive is triple negative breast cancer, which is very aggressive, rarely responds to chemotherapy and does not seem to be linked to hormones, meaning that standard hormone treatment will not work.
A growing stream of research has demonstrated this threefold positive breast cancer is another subset, although we still lack large-scale studies to understand this type. Triple positive is a tumor that grows in response to all three breast hormones – estrogen, progesterone and HER-2.
According to deduction, experts believe that about 10 percent of the tumors can be triple positive, because 20-25 percent are HER-2 positive, 70 percent are estrogen-receptor positive, and most of them are also progesterone positive, according to Lynne Eldridge, MD, author of Avoiding cancer, day by day.
Although it sounds like the antithesis of triple negative in its composition, it is hardly a lighter test.
Triple positive tumors are usually more aggressive and occur in younger people, and patients need a triple whammy treatment plan that is debilitating.
As soon as she was diagnosed, Alexandria immediately began meeting new doctors and surgeons to begin treatment.
“I was so young and healthy before, so my doctors and I were all on the same page to be as aggressive as possible with my treatment,” she said.
Alexandria started chemotherapy in March 2018 and at the same time started her medically induced menopause to preserve her fertility.
Alexandria did five rounds of chemotherapy and received four hormonal treatments for a year (Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin and Perjeta).
Only two weeks after her first session, Alexandria began to lose her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, became weak, nauseous, and had memory problems.
In July, she decided to undergo a double breast amputation and reconstruction – a simple decision for Alexandria once she had completed chemotherapy, out to eliminate any risk that her cancer could prevent again, and desperate not to undergo chemo again .
Just two weeks after her first session, Alexandria began to lose her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, became weak, nauseous, and had memory problems
Despite the journey, Alexandria has learned to love her body more than ever before, because it has fought so much to get her where she is now
‘The treatment naturally influenced me physically, such as losing my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, feeling weak, nausea and exhaustion, but there were also emotional aspects that linger and cannot be seen.
“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 I was losing part of my identity. “
In March of this year she received her last chemo infusion.
Now she still uses Letrozole, a daily pill to regulate her hormone levels.
Despite the journey, Alexandria has learned to love her body more than ever before, because it has fought so much to get her where she is now.
‘When I think back to the past year, I often feel like a bad dream. I am so grateful for family and friends who were with me and I am grateful for doctors who are ruthless in their efforts to give me the best possible treatments.
‘Instagram, YouTube and my blog have enabled me to help other people. It gives me a purpose, a reason to go on dark days and find the silver linings throughout this experience.
‘For other cancer fighters, I hope I can be a source, a friend and a source of inspiration. For all the others who hear my story, I hope I can inspire them to fully live their lives and take control of their health. “