My plan for the future is just to have fun. Live life.
Nearly a year ago, Alexandra was fresh off a Master’s degree in a field of high demand, four months into a new job with one of the most formidable companies in the world, and thinking about starting a family.
Then one morning she leaned over in bed, brushed against her chest, and felt a lump.
“I felt it again, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not great,’” she says today. “I knew it wasn’t normal. And after ultrasounds and biopsies, I found out on December 12, 2018, that I had breast cancer.”
She was 29.
“I was like, ‘How is this real? I’m in my 20s. You don’t get cancer in your 20s,’” Alexandra says. “So, I let myself cry. I called my mom and just bawled my eyes out. And when we hung up, I said, ‘OK, you’re going to have to face this. It is what it is. Handle it. Let’s just beat it.’ I cried, processed it, and was ready to move on and tackle it.”
She knew she needed a team and a plan.
“I was diagnosed through Southcoast Health, and as soon as I was, there was never any question about my staying here for cancer care. I love my doctors and nurses here. They know who I am, they welcome me, they build relationships and form bonds … they’re like an extended family, which is so important when you’re up against something like cancer,” says the Westport native and East Providence resident.
“I did get a second opinion at Dana Farber, and they agreed with my doctors at Southcoast. This is home. I grew up over here. It’s always been family and home and what makes sense to me.”
After meeting with her surgeon, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist, Alexandra determined her next steps, which, given her circumstances, included a pathway that hadn’t crossed her mind since waking up that fateful morning: her future fertility.
“I had to consider, ‘OK, do I want to harvest my eggs? Do I want to make sure that I can be a mother someday, or is that not important to me?’ I had a few weeks to decide. And I decided that I wanted to,” she says.
“The process was difficult, but I knew for myself that it was something I had to do. That was probably the biggest challenge other than the actual cancer – making sure that I would be all set for my future. The desire to someday have children outweighed all of the needles, hormones, and appointments every day.”
As daunting as that decision was, Alexandra still had to face 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 21 rounds of radiation – all of which she completed by August of 2019.
“January, I had surgery; February, I harvested my eggs; immediately the week after, I started chemo,” she says. “So, I am officially done with treatment, which has brought a range of emotions. I’m happy it’s over, excited, but anxious. And that applies to this entire process: You’re nervous, scared, but hopeful and strong. If I had to give advice to anyone who’s been recently diagnosed, I’d probably say, ‘Don’t panic – stay strong, have a positive attitude, and see what you can make out of it.’
“Instead of saying ‘Why me?,’ say, ‘What is this trying to teach me, and what is this trying to show me?’ Handle it day by day, moment by moment.”
So … what is next?
“Next, I’m just putting all of my focus into my career. Actually, no – I’m not,” Alexandra says. “I would have done that before, but this has shown me that I can’t plan everything. If you had asked me this question nine or 10 months ago, I would have said, ‘Oh, I’ll just be working, progressing in my career, buying a bigger house, starting a family.’
“Now? My plan for the future is just to have fun. Live life. See the world. Work, but don’t take it too seriously. Just be the best I can and be happy.”
Learn more about the Southcoast Health Cancer Centers – commemorating 10 years of providing compassionate, comprehensive, and world-class care close to home.