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  • WELCOME!

    On August 24, 2015 I was diagnosed with stage 2 Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer (triple negative). When the doctor uttered those words, "Breast Cancer" my world was flipped upside down. I was just 25. This blog is just a way for me to work through what I am going through. I have gone through IVF treatments, a port surgery, 16 rounds of chemotherapy (taxol, carbo, A/C), a lumpectomy (I had a complete response to chemo), and 33 rounds of radiation. I finished treatment in June of 2016.

    I am a Graphic Designer, Photographer, Wife, and now I am a Breast Cancer Survivor.

    *Photo above by ClickForHope.net. I was featured here and here.
    *Photo of me and my cute husband by Shadi Garmen Photography. See more here.

Do you all remember how I talked about going to the hospital where I got treatment to give away some necklaces?

Well the blog is live, but not here! Go check it out on Hope25.com and click here. Please comment if you read that post. I’d LOVE to hear what you think. Also, feel free to share that post.

Here’s a sneak peek!

Photo by MelissaIsaiPhotography.com aka my brother.

 

Hope25.com

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I had someone ask me some questions regarding my biopsy. Someone they know will be having one soon. Breast cancer biopsy questions are below, but I wanted to tell you my story first. I realized I talked about it briefly here but I didn’t really cover what it was like. I had a core-needle biopsy.

“During an ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy, the patient lies down while the doctor holds the ultrasound against the breast to direct the needle. On the other hand, during a stereotactic-guided core-needle biopsy, the doctor uses x-ray equipment (in my case it was ultrasound guided) and a computer to guide the needle.” Quote from here.

So I laid on my side. Left arm over my head. They tried to get me as comfortable as possible. They did an ultrasound of my breast. They cleaned up the breast and then numbed the area with a needle. Once it was numb, they started the biopsy. They did something that I can’t really describe… it opened up a tiny hole to guide the needle down. It was like putting a needle/guide in so that a thinner one could go inside. Once they found different areas they wanted to pull tissue/cells from the tumor from they would countdown. Then I heard a loud click. There was slight pressure. It was almost like a needle gun going in and out quickly. There was a time where they grabbed from an area that wasn’t quite numb, so they would pause and then quickly numb that area with more local anesthesia. It hurt but anesthesia would kick in quickly. That’s not always the case I’m sure, but that was the case for me. If you are going to go through this, don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask for more if you feel anything. I heard the clicks several times. For me, they also had to go in the armpit where the lymph nodes are. I can’t remember how long it took. I think an hour on the patient bed maybe? During one of the clicks they put a marker in. If it is cancer that will tell them where it is. Right after that cleaned me up and put a special medical glue to close it up. IT was a tiny incision. Not a big deal. The nurse stood there for about 5 minutes applying a lot of pressure on the area (I can’t remember why). I had a mammogram done after so they can see exactly where the margins where placed and then they wrapped me up really tight. I was done after that. I remember it hurting a bit, but I applied ice packs about every 30 minutes to help with the pain and swelling. I went home that day and did not really move from my couch.

I had a biopsy done Friday first thing in the morning. I got the call Monday morning from my dr. I found out it was cancer after that. Tuesday I would find out it was triple negative stage 2…not sure why they couldn’t tell me the same day, but I guess they needed to do more testing on the samples they had.

So now questions!

1) Does the Marker hurt after the procedure is done? What’s it made of?

I didn’t feel the marker. It’s tiny. The area hurt overall, but it was definitely manageable. The worst part was the emotional part. The waiting. I actually do not know what it is made of. I can’t remember.

2) What side affects did you experience from  having a foreign object inserted in your body?

I didn’t even realize or feel the marker inside. Once I had surgery that was taken out. As far as the overall biopsy being done, the first time, It was fine. A couple days later I was ok. It was a bit sore for a few days, but I was fine.

The second time I had a biopsy done (I needed another for a clinical trial I was on) It hurt walking out of the building. Down the ramp of the parking lot was the worst thing ever. It was so uncomfortable. I went to lunch after and it hurt so I held my boob and whined. haha This was the time that I felt the needle going in and out and they had to numb it more…. I simply took pain meds (tylenol I think) and it kicked in about 20 minutes later and I felt better.

3) How long did it take for the numbing to wear off after the biopsy.

I can’t remember honestly. I took tylenol as soon as I got home and tried to rest/nap the first time. The second time, I mentioned that it just hurt so bad walking out so not sure. I was on those pain meds right after.

4) Is the weekend enough time to recover after the biopsy?

Some people go to work right after the biopsy. With that being said, I think that’s crazy. I mentioned the first time I had the biopsy on a Friday, but Monday it would have been fine to go back to work. I took the day off because I knew I would hear the news and deep down I knew it was cancer. I didn’t go to work at all that week, because I had a million appointments and imaging to get done.

5) Any tips on recovery?

Ice packs every 30-60 minutes and take whatever they tell you for pain. I think it was tylenol, but I would double check with your dr.

 

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I haven’t written much here about the end of treatment. Today I saw a fellow BC survivor post about her story, so I felt like it was time to write mine. Radiation for Breast Cancer.

They told me I would need radiation. I went in and they explained the best coarse of action would be 33 rounds of it. It would be every business day. I would have to drive up then get zapped. The appoint would be about 20 minutes in the office. I found out my hospital has valet parking for 30 minutes so I would drive up, run in, and run out. The main guy there knew me by the time I was done. He always said hi. Even when I went in the other day he said hi and hugged me. lol.

Anyway, the radiation oncologist explained that they would have to get the left breast as well as the lymph nodes. He explained that there was a trial I could go on that would zap me or not at all. I already went on a trail for chemo, I was not interested in any more trials. I don’t feel like they explained everything right the first day, because I remember coming home unsure of what to do. I felt like they gave me a choice on zapping the lymph nodes or not. I spent a couple days agonizing over it. I read all about previous trials on zapping them. My conclusion was to get them zapped. If there are any cancer cells left, the radiation would get it. I’m pretty sure I cried about this, because once again I felt like I had to make a huge decision. Once again they told me about all the possible long term side effects. Radiation is no joke. Since it is on the left side they would do their best not to touch the heart. I would have to hold my breathe, but how scary is that thought? My chance for skin cancer just went up as well as another one that I can’t remember. A chance that the lungs would be affected was something I needed to keep in mind. However when I requested to go back in, the dr made me feel so much better about getting everything zapped. He told me he strongly recommends it so I said yes.

I signed the paperwork and went in to get a mold made. I’m not sure what it is really called but they did all these X-rays with me hold my breath and without. They had me a machine that looked a little like an MRI machine. I was face up with my arms above my head. It took a while, but all these X-rays would determine exactly measurements on where they would radiate my body. They then gave me four tiny tattoos. Tiny little dots that look like birthmarks. It was done by a needle.

About two weeks later the calculations where done and I started chemo a day after my birthday. Everyday I would drive about 45-60 minutes to the hospital and then another 45-60 minutes back home. I didn’t mind it too much seeing as Northwestern Hospital is the best. My day there would be to go in the basement. I would scan my card and my name would pop up on a screen. It would beep and turn green. Then I would get up and go into the changing rooms. I would grab an ugly gown and change waist up. I would throw my stuff in a locker and then wait a couple of minutes. A Tech would get me and say hi. I’d walk into a room and then look on a screen. I would confirm the photo was me. I would say my name, DOB, and “left side” to confirm my info. I would lie on the bed and Pull my gown down as a tech covered me with a thin blanket at the same time. My arms would go over my head. The mold would help me so that I would be in the same place every time. They would lift the bed up and shift it according to the tattoos which would tell  them where to move me, again so that I was in the same position every day. I would turn my head to the right and the machine would rotate. The techs would leave once I was lined up and they would go to another room. If I were ever to get up or shift too much cameras and lasers detected where I was and would shut the  machine down. I would stare ahead of me or close my eyes. I would wait of them to tell me to hold my breath several times for about a minute or so each. I would take a deep breath and hold it. They would let me know when to breath. All this so that my lungs would expand and my heart would be further back and away. Once they were done about 15 minutes later I would pull my gown up as they moved the bed down and then I would get up. They would help me down and I would go back and change. I would put on a toooonnnn of aquaphor to help moisturize the skin and then I then got into my car and drove off.


This snapchat video shows my day a little bit. Lol

I would put on aquaphor twice a day.

I had to stop using the deoderant I had always used due to most store bought deodorants having aluminum in them. I bought a special one from whole foods, but I tried not to use it at all. I didn’t want to irritate the skin. My skin slowly started to get darker in the areas that were being zapped. About 14 rounds in you could see a difference. By about round 20-25 it was pretty dark and the skin got tight. It was also then that I would have pain sometimes. They said it’s normal due to tissue damage from surgery and then radiation after that. My scar got hard to the touch which was also normal. Slowly it got a bit reddish, but then super super dark. Towards the end it started to peel. It didn’t bother me too much. I was happy it never really got burned more then a normal sunburn like burn. They gave me something for the itch, but my itching was nothing the aquaphor couldn’t handle. Overall the side effects were ok. Not that bad.


This is a picture of it. Sorry for showing you this. But in case you were curious.

If you google radiation burns you’ll see why I was scared. Then you’ll see why I said all that wasn’t too bad. haha. Sometimes it still swells up a little bit and has pain. I hear that’s all normal still. I got some fatigue from radiation, but seriously nothing compared to chemo. Chemo was way worse.

Next blog I’ll talk about my last radiation and how that felt.

 

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I mentioned before that I opened up my own online store as a way to help encourage other young women going though a cancer diagnosis. A place that was a little less pink ribbon and a little more fun and modern. hope25.com was been so much fun to run. A lot of hard work, but so much fun.

With the purchase of a necklace, a tumbler, and a bag of hope a necklace gets donated to someone battling cancer. Tomorrow will be my first donation round. I’m nervous about it. Joe and I role played what I would say. I need to continue to practice but I told him I need to go back to why I wanted to do this. I want to let these women know they can punch fear in the face. I want them to know they are not alone in the battles they face. If they have any questions from a survivor I’d be happy to help. I also should pray for them if they want a prayer. That makes me so nervous. I never know what to say especially when praying for someone. Add to that how shy I am, yikes!

I’ve been feeling anxious a lot lately so I’ve recommited to reading the bible. Today was day two and I’m reading Exodus. In the story with God talking to Mosus through the burning bush. Mosus says this…

10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

How many times have we been afraid to say what was on our hearts? Maybe we had no idea what we should say. How many times have we felt less then ready and equipped to do something? How many times have we doubted ourselves and been like God really? Me? But God basically yelled at Moses and said go. Lol. 

So I pray that God gives me the right words to say tomorrow. I won’t be alone. Isai will photograph and Joe will be by my side as well, but still. Will you join me in praying for tomorrow? For the right words to say and for the women I will meet? I will be going to the same infusion rooms I got treatment in and each interaction might be a few seconds to a few minutes or more. I’m not sure. 

Thanks guys. 


Photo by clickforhope.net of me wearing my hope 25 hear. Tote bag, shirt, and necklace. 

  • August 4, 2016 - 6:49 pm

    Valerie - What a blessing you will be to them Melissa! You will do great! God will give you the words.ReplyCancel

    • August 4, 2016 - 9:31 pm

      mel.alicea@yahoo.com - Thank you! ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2016 - 8:19 pm

    Ivette Pagan - You can do this!!! Psalm 81:10 says “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

    The Lord has brought you thus far and will not put you to shame. Let him guide your words and you will see how he will use you to bless others through your experience.

    I’ll pray for you!

    Love,
    IvetteReplyCancel

    • August 4, 2016 - 9:32 pm

      mel.alicea@yahoo.com - As always thank you so much!ReplyCancel

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We booked a trip. That morning I looked at this picture and I missed it. 


I missed my hair. I missed this silly moment. Most of all I just missed us on vaca. 

Joe says I’m obsessed with vacation. I just love being away and taking time to be with each other. It’s just so much fun. How could I not love vacation?

So he said let’s go. I told him to stop messing with my emotions. Haha We had to pay a lot in taxes this year and we got some money back. So I looked up flights and we got tickets for super cheap. We Booked it. We really did it. 

I spent days looking at hotels and today we finally booked one. P.S. If you book something use this link so we both can get a discount.:) 

https://refer.booking.com/s/75m5w

It’s refundable so if we find a better deal we can cancel that one. I’m so excited you guys. We went there 4 years ago on our honeymoon so to go back and celebrate life and or anniversary… It’s so good. Who cares if we can’t pay a bill or two. Hahahaha YOLO. We just caught up for the most part. We’ll figure it out. We always do. I second shoot this weekend so that’s extra cash. Woohoo. 

I. Can’t. Wait. 

Anybody have tips of fun free things to do in NYC? Let me know! 

Pictures below just for fun. 


I had a shoot today with clickforhope.net for my shop hope25.com. I’m wearing my shirt above. I can’t wait to see how they came out. It was me and a couple of my products modeling. I’m so excited. I need a new about me photo too so that’ll be nice.

Before I forget I haven’t been writing health updates but I had my first 1 month follow up with the radiation oncologist. After 33 rounds I’m healing nicely. I told him about some pain and swelling I had mostly after my Florida trip. I just have to monitor if it happens again. If it does on my flight it might be lymphedema or flight replated which means I’ll have to go to a physical therapist and get a special sleeve for flying. Pray it’s nothing and it doesn’t happen again!

Tomorrow I have a survivorship appointment so I’ll have to report back on what means. 

Sorry for the random blog. I just wanted to update on some good stuff.:) 


Me and lili at her bday party:)

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