She Remembers Feeling A Lump In Her Breast When She Showered And Thought It Was Because Of Her Period. Weeks Later She Was Diagnosed With Cancer

credit: Alexandra Silva

Alexandra Silva can still remember the Monday she discovered the mass that doctors would later diagnosis as breast cancer. She can also easily recall how she initially convinced herself not to panic.

Silva was in the comfort of her home, taking a shower the first time she felt the lump.

Ready?!!??!?! 😀

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“I had just ended my period so I thought it was something related to that,” Silva says. “I told my mom if it was still there by Friday I’d make an appointment. It was still there, so I made an appointment with my general doctor.”

Over the years, Silva had given herself plenty of self-breast exams. Nothing thorough or monthly as she describes them, but frequently enough so that on the day she did discover something she was able to catch it early. Nevertheless, the reality of her diagnosis was quite a blow. Silva was 22 years old, just out of college, and was looking forward to the life she had ahead of her.

“I went into oblivion. I was shocked and my mind went blank,” says Silva about her initial reaction to the diagnosis.

One last birthday celebration! #Cake

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“I also felt a bit numb. It didn’t seem real at all,” Silva says. “I had my whole life planned and in an instant it was up in the air. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be alive to live out my dreams. I had to go through so many changes,” Silva says about her diagnosis.

Many cancer patients have difficulty coming to terms with the loss of hair associated with chemotherapy, but Silva had a bigger concern.

“I was very at peace with losing my hair, but my breasts [were] another thing.”

Hair loss can be a very real aspect of chemotherapy for most patients diagnosed with breast cancer. For Silva, whose doctor had outlined a first plan of action that began with a double mastectomy, losing her hair wasn’t the hardest part.

“I know it doesn’t make me less of a woman, but it’s hard to feel beautiful when the world throws so many images of breasts in your face,” she says.

After six weeks, she underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and like most breast cancer patients, moved onto radiation. “I was able to take about a two month break before starting my radiation and if I remember correctly, it was 35 rounds. The last step of my journey was my breast reconstruction 10 months after finishing radiation.”

To cope with her diagnosis, Silva joined two local support groups.

Soon after her diagnosis, Silva joined a support circle where women who were also fighting for their lives shared their experiences. Still, the isolation of being a young breast cancer patient in a group of women who who’d already lived through their twenties was wearisome. “[They] definitely helped with the wave of emotions, but I also felt very alone because I was going through cancer at a different stage in life,” she says.

Less than 5% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. are younger than forty. By 40, rates increase and become the highest in women over the age of 70. At 22, Silva was by far the youngest cancer fighter within her group.

An avid musicophile, Silva ended up finding the strength to get through her treatment through music.

CREDIT: Silva showing off the results of her treatment at a Backstreet Boy Concert.  Credit: Alexandra Silva

“I love my family and friends, but music doesn’t ask questions. It doesn’t judge me. It has always been my comfort, so I earned heavily on it during this time,” Silva explains. “I was able to let out aggression and sadness just by turning on my iPod.”

Silva hopes her breast cancer diagnosis will encourage women of all ages to take self-breast exams seriously.

So far, she’s worked to encourage women to perform breast checks by pairing up with the Keep A Breast Foundation.

Even Lady Gaga, her music idol, has been inspired by her story.

CREDIT: Silva after her diagnosis pre-hair loss and mastectomy.                                  Credit: Alexandra Silva

“When I was first diagnosed, the first song that came up on my iPod Shuffle while driving home was a song called ‘Marry the Night,'” Silva says recalling the night Lady Gaga gave her a shout out at her ArtPop tour concert.

“There’s a lyric that goes ‘I’m gonna marry the night. I won’t give up on my life. I’m a warrior queen, live passionately tonight.’

It clicked. I was a warrior queen. I was going to kick the cancer in the fucking ass.

It really gave me the motivation to fight this. So, in my sign I wrote ‘I’m a Warrior Queen, I survived cancer.’ I had put it up a few times during the show with no response. The second to last song was about to start and in an instant she said, ‘What does that sign say?’ I immediately start to cry. She reads it and goes, ‘Well done, bitch!’ She sings part of the song and changes the lyric to say ‘fuck cancer.’ I was BAWLING. I couldn’t believe it. My queen reading my sign. It was a moment I will NEVER forget. And even to this day, talking about it still chokes me up.”

These days, Silva works with children as a substitute teacher. While her personal battle with cancer is far behind her, she recognizes her fight is still ongoing.

It’s been over three years since her diagnosis, but Silva continues to deal with the emotional scars of her battle. “I still struggle with my physical appearance and sometimes it’s extremely difficult to look at myself in the mirror and see this person I don’t recognize.”

The effects of her diagnosis still run with her, but for Silva, cancer has pushed her to live a life worth having. “This experience has made me live life. I work very hard so I can travel and go to shows and do the things that I want to do. And I take huge pride in the fact that I’ve been able to see so many beautiful places.”

For women in their twenties who don’t give themselves regular self-breast checks, Silva has one message.

A year ago today I had my last chemo! In honor of that, I'm taking a #CHECKYOURSELFIE. This symbolizes my commitment to continuing to check myself every month. Now, I challenge you to make the same commitment! Take a selfie with 3 fingers to your breasts & post them with the hashtag #checkyourselfie. Don't forget to tag me & @keepabreast so we can see these photos! Make sure you challenge your friends, too! Guys, don't think I'm not including you! Y'all can get breast cancer, so make sure to do the challenge as well! Again, this is a reminder that young people can get breast cancer. Don't be afraid to check yourself! Make that commitment, it's so important! We are NOT invincible, no matter how much we think we are. #FUCKCANCER #WARRIORQUEEN

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“DO IT! It could literally save your life,” Silva says. “Even though I’m years out of treatment, I still check myself at least once a month. I’m a huge advocate for getting familiar with your body. If you don’t notice any changes, your doctor might not ever know.”

Thank you for inspiring us, Warrior Queen!

CREDIT: Giphy

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Being a Boss Chick means life can get busy, make sure you’re staying up to date about the health of your breast by downloading the Keep A Breast’s Check Your Selfie app. Learn about it here!

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’re teaming  up with our friends at Keep A Breast to support! Join us in spreading awareness by rockin’ mitú’s BCA collection. All proceeds will directly benefit the Keep-A-Breast #checkyourselfie global campaign, promoting monthly self exams and breast health education through app technology.

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Read: These Scary Stats Will (Hopefully) Get You To Your Doctor’s Office For A Mammogram

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Self-breast examinations have saved women of all ages, be sure to share this story with your friends to help them take theirs seriously.