Looking Back: Five Years
On July 10, 2016 Alene agreed to marry the love of her life. Just three days later, her entire world fell apart.
Although she had no history of breast cancer in her family, she soon found herself sitting in a doctor’s office trying to process the words nobody wants to hear.
“You have breast cancer.”
It all started with a routine mammogram. Alene had just turned 41, and she was being proactive about her health by getting her first screening mammogram.
The experience wasn’t quite what she expected. Alene’s primary care doctor called her to recommend an ultrasound to further investigate the abnormal results, but the results of the ultrasound only prompted more investigation.
While Alene’s physician wasn’t sure if it was cancer, he referred her to a breast surgeon for a biopsy. The results of the biopsy were indisputable.
When she first heard the news, Alene recalls that the doctor held her hand.
“Everything was a blur,” she said. “I could see her lips moving, but I wasn’t hearing or processing anything that she was saying. My fiancé just sat in the chair looking at me. My mother was on speaker and just kept saying, ‘Are you sure?’”
At 41 years old, Alene was supposed to be planning her wedding and looking forward to a future with her fiancé. Instead, she was at the start of one of the most challenging seasons of her life.
Though difficult, she completed her treatment plan of two surgeries, eight rounds of chemo, and 24 rounds of radiation with the support of her loving family.
Throughout her treatment, one thing was abundantly clear: Alene’s mammogram saved her life.
If Alene had postponed or avoided the procedure, it’s hard to say when she would have been diagnosed. However, many women choose to forgo the simple check-up due to finances.
At NBCF, it’s our mission to provide early detection services to as many women as possible.
“I am an advocate of early detection by mammogram because it saved my life,” Alene told us. “That is why I became a National Breast Cancer Foundation Community Ambassador: to encourage and empower women to take charge of their breast health.”
Wedding Bells and Survivor Bells
One year after her diagnosis, July 29, 2017, Alene married her husband. She writes, “My husband has been by my side through it all. He always says things happen for a reason. He was the primary caregiver to both his parents who died in 2009—three hours apart. He spoke at our wedding on how this prepared him to help me navigate through my journey.”
Alene now reflects on where she is today:
“September 23rd I will be a cancer survivor of five years. For women who have just been diagnosed, I would encourage you to ask questions and reach out to your family for questions they may have. I did this with my immediate family, and they came up with questions I would not have thought to ask my care team.”
Alene shares: “Your journey never really ends—only continues on in a different way.” As for what’s next on her journey?
“I want to travel home to Canada, since I have not been able to see friends and family due to the pandemic. I want to go to Hawaii to celebrate five years of survivorship. And I want to continue educating others on the importance of getting your first mammogram.”
National Cancer Survivors Day gives us a day to reflect on our unique experiences with cancer that led to where we are now and where we hope to be in the future. Join National Breast Cancer Foundation as we celebrate and honor survivors like Alene today and look to the future with renewed hope.
National Breast Cancer Foundation is here for you and your loved ones. Whether you need support, education, or help during treatment, we have a team dedicated to get you the help you deserve.