Denise Albert is an award-winning journalist, television producer and Co-Founder of The MOMS (TheMOMS.com) and Mamarazzi Celebrity Events. Denise describes herself as a, “Full time working/stay at home, happily divorced, independent survivor mom”. Denise is currently embarking on a new venture inspired by her cancer journey, MyCancerFamily.com.
Her August 2015 diagnosis with stage 2 (due to lymph node involvement) invasive lobular/triple positive (including Her2+) breast cancer came as an absolute shock. 41 years old, divorced with 2 young boys (ages 7 and 10), she found a lump just months after a mammography report read as “normal” in the first sentence. However, in the fine print, the letter mentioned she had dense breasts and may want further testing. According to Denise, “It’s incomprehensible to me that no one called me to share that information. The good news is that since then, the language used to report breast density has become federally mandated and standardized.”
Her treatment journey was long and very difficult. In similar situations, many women benefit from an oncotype test⎯a test that determines which treatment offers the best chance of remission. But, the doctors felt that Denise’s Her2 positive status would render the results inconclusive. As a result, her doctors chose aggressive “ACT” chemotherapy because the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
First, she had adriamycin + cyclophosphamide (A + C) every other week for 4 months. She lost her hair and 10 pounds after the second treatment. She felt weak, tired, and sick
most of the time. She lost her taste and most food made her nauseous. When A + C ended, she had Taxol weekly for 12 weeks. Plus, started Herceptin and Perjeta infusions every 3 weeks for a year. She lost her eyelashes and eyebrows. Plus, she endured painful side effects such as losing toenails and all over body rashes.
In Denise’s words, “The impact of my cancer journey on my family was horrific. My kids were so young and had a really hard time. I was really scared but did my best to stay positive for my boys. I wanted to share my optimism that I was going to survive (even though deep down, I didn’t know for sure). It really helped that they saw me living my life and trying to still be there for them when I could such⎯a school events, basketball games and walking them to school. Looking back now, I honestly don’t know how I did it all while feeling so horrible.”
Denise also experienced the financial toxicity that so many people have to deal with, “As an entrepreneur, and divorced person on her own health insurance plan, the bills were expensive. There were so many co-payments and many bills that insurance didn’t cover. The bills just kept coming and still do. It’s a horrible never-ending cycle.”
Sharing her story publicly on social media, and in the media (Good Housekeeping and People.com), was something that fueled Denise. Hearing from and sharing with others was invaluable to her recovery. In addition, music played a healing role “I went to a lot of Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen concerts. There were many times I would be at a concert one night and then wake up to go to chemotherapy the next morning. Musicians and concerts were small doses of joy in my life.”
The impact, and fallout, of the pandemic is now top of mind. She echoes sentiments many healthcare providers have been articulating, “I’m very scared about what is going to happen with cancer in the next few years. Diagnoses are expected to rise over the next few years, due to avoided screenings. I hope everyone remembers that cancer doesn’t go away because of a pandemic.”
It’s been 6 years from her diagnosis and Denise is now cancer-free. She’s optimistic about the constant innovation in cancer treatments. And it’s safe to say that her experience has changed her for the better, “My life’s mission has now become to help others.”
Connect with Denise
Follow, and share your story, with Denise Albert. Connect with her via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (@denisealbert) and be among the first to join My Cancer Family (a new resource she created for every cancer patient to rely on to get all the support and love they need to fight).