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Shine On

Full Name: Jennifer Albanese
Type of Cancer: Stage 3 IDC ER+/PR+ HER2- Breast Cancer
Instagram: @sunshine_survivor

Hi my name is Jennifer. I am 27 years old. On May 14th, 2018 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 IDC, ER+/PR+ HER2- Breast Cancer. I’ve had a history of breast issues since 2010. I dealt with tenderness, pains and fibroadenomas. I’ve had many biopsies, but the last one changed me forever. I had a 2 hour drive to my post biopsy appointment for the results. Since I’ve been through it before everyone was telling me I’d be fine, even my doctor. I went alone that day. As I walked into the office I saw a nurse. She spoke with me the week before my biopsy. I thought something was off because she gave me this blank stare, emotionless expression as I walked by. I smiled and said hello. I sat in the waiting room on my phone. When my doctor and a nurse navigator came in. Everything was quiet and she had a piece of paper in her hand. With one hand on my shoulder and the paper in the other. She apologized, as she told me, ‘Jennifer you have breast cancer’ How and why were the first questions, to be honest, from then to next week I was pretty upset and numb and unknown to what was inside of me and what my future would hold. Fast forward to June 26, 2018. My surgeon put my port in because the chemo I was receiving could burn my veins using an IV, so port it was! My surgeon told me after the procedure, he had to flip me upside down on the surgery table to place it properly because I didn’t have much fat and very thin skin! I began chemotherapy in July and for 5 + months I went through AC/T. The AC treatment (the red chemo) was manually pushed in biweekly through a syringe by my chemo nurses. I had 4 treatments of AC and 12 weekly Taxol treatments. The main symptom of taxol is said to be neuropathy, but thankfully I never got that. I also didn’t have a problem with nausea either. I was always hungry! Along with my conventional treatments, I wanted to use holistic treatments as well and it helped immensely. I’ve always loved using natural remedies on myself and with all of the appointments, doctor visits, and blood work. I liked that I could take control and make my own changes, something to focus on daily. I changed my diet, I eat a lot of veggies and fruits, I drink green juices and exercise in many ways. Walking, jogging, biking, dancing, yoga. Fresh air, is so healing to me. I took herbal supplements, with cannabis oils as well. I changed my thoughts. Started seeing a therapist. I used positive affirmations daily and listened to guided meditations and soothing music. It really has helped keep me centered through all of this. It is truly incredible what the human body and mind can do. We are powerful beings, with so much love, courage and strength. I have gained so many positive things, from this journey. We are constantly learning, growing and discovering ourselves through our experiences. I’ve learned to listen to my body. I used to think by not doing anything I wasn’t doing enough to fight for my life. But that’s exactly what my body needed at times, rest! My body and mind have been through so much. I remind myself that resting is healing too. I truly believe in the darkness is where we find our inner light.

This January, I had my bilateral mastectomy, lymph node dissection with immediate reconstruction and tissue expanders. Recovery from this was not easy, the first few days were rough. I was in a lot of pain and I could barely move. I looked like I had T-rex Dino arms for at least 4-5 days. It has now been 12 days since my surgery. I feel so much better. I can move around a lot more and do things on my own. I am now in the process of having my tissue expanders filled. I had my first fill yesterday, I was super nervous. Needles still make me queasy, no I haven’t gotten used to them! I didn’t look and it ended up not hurting at all. I just felt a little pressure and she only filled a little bit at a time, 1 oz each. My plastic surgeon has also suggested seeing a physical therapist to regain strength and my range of motion back. I am looking forward to strengthening my body back to health being cancer free! Since surgery, I’ve been processing and coping with all that I have been through. I am so thankful for all of the love and support I continue to receive by my family, friends, warriors and strangers each day. It really helps to have someone to talk to. Right now, I am taking it one day at a time. Reminding myself to not look back, unless it’s to see how far I have come. I am proud of myself for all that I’ve been through and the new woman I am becoming. And if I do have a bad day I tell myself, that’s it’s okay to cry, just don’t unpack and live there. Cry it out and then refocus on where I am headed. It’s very healing to feel and release all of it. Today, I am so grateful to be able to connect and share my story with others. Each story is unique and I’m glad I can bring hope and help to others along the way. Never give up!

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