Chelsea Haizlip: A Breast Cancer Journey of Hope & Faith
Hi, my name is Chelsea Haizlip. I am a BrCa-1 gene carrier and on November 16, 2020, I was diagnosed with stage 3A and stage 2B breast cancer at 33 years old. I went for my first biopsy on November 13, 2020, for a lump I felt in my left breast and on November 16, 2020, I had another biopsy and while I was waiting to leave, the results came back from the November 13, 2020, biopsy showing breast cancer in both breasts. At the time when I found out, I was kind of calm and in a state of shock because I had just gone through the same process with my mom in 2018 and 2019 who is now a survivor. I was sort of hopeful in my own case but was surprised that it would happen so soon to me. I immediately saw my doctor and discussed my process and was told that I had stage 3A invasive ductal carcinoma of the left breast with lymph nodes involvement and 2B of the right. I had only felt the lump in the left breast, so I was not surprised to find out that it was also in the right breast. After discussing my flow, I chose to go with chemo, surgery, and radiation. My surgery would include a double mastectomy and reconstruction. I also received an injection in my stomach to preserve my ovaries throughout the process since I wanted kids and had not had kids, yet which was scary. Going through chemo I believe was the hardest part! I lost my hair after my second treatment of chemo (which did not bother me at all). I was supposed to do 16 rounds of chemo (4 “red devil” and 16 Taxol). After three rounds of what they called the “red devil”, I was very weak and tired and emotionally distraught. It was just very terrible for me, so after three rounds I switched to Taxol and I think about after four rounds of Taxol, I began to feel a little bit of neuropathy and I ended up stopping the Taxol and they asked if I could do one last round of the red devil. At that point I was just like “I’ll do one last round of “red devil”, but this is it, no more chemo for me.” I did my last round on March 11, 2021, which happened to be VERY heavy for me, but it was my last one, so I did not mind.
After about 2 months rest on May 7, 2021, I went through a double mastectomy (it hurt so bad) in which they cut off both breast and removed nipples and placed expanders inside so that I can start my reconstruction process. After reconstruction, which was way easier than the mastectomy, I got a chance to enjoy a few months of peace until I went through radiation. I went through 31 rounds of radiation. That was every day except weekends. Because of Covid, I was not allowed to have anyone accompany me in the treatment room. Unlike when my mom went through her treatments, I was able to be there and sit right beside her. I would be so drained after my treatments, but my entire cancer journey, I would get dolled up on the days I felt my best! Through radiation, I suffered from skin burning and tearing a little, and now it is darker than my body but as long as I’m cancer free that’s all that matters.
On October 1, 2021, I completed radiation right on time for Breast Cancer Awareness month which was a wonderful celebration. After celebrating, I saw my OBGYN just to get a check on the status of my ovaries after receiving chemo. I saw that I was pre-menopausal making my chances a little slighter for having kids, which was very scary for me because I wanted kids; but I trusted in God, so I knew if it were his will, it would be done. I was 34 years old, and in remission. I spent the next few months trying to get used to life after cancer; and the disaster having cancer played on my bills, losing my job, and trying to feel normal again. It was such a task because I still had things that made me nauseous or smells that reminded me of the cancer center. I still hated going in that building. My last visit my doctor told me they were going to put me on a pill to be safe for the next 4 years, and of course that made me sick. So, I stopped for the month of December.
On January 5, 2022, I found out that I was pregnant. Yes PREGNANT! I was so excited that I was capable of still getting pregnant after all of this and blessed and even more excited; that my doctor said it was going to be okay to be pregnant so soon after! I think a lot of times people do not really understand what it is like when you have breast cancer. I think that a lot of things are overlooked, like the fact that you could lose your job, or cannot pay your bills. You also lose a lot of your womanhood when it comes to breast cancer. I always wanted to breast-feed. I will not be able to breast-feed because of the way the cancer spread in my breast. It is just like the nervousness of it all. Will I be able to have kids? There is a lot that comes into play. My life after cancer is looking great now and I am sooooo appreciative, and so happy that this is beyond me! I have so many things I want to do related to cancer, but I am still taking my time; going to therapy and staying strong while being informative! I appreciate life so much more!