ChemoWize Founder and Director Alex Peterson (nee Rylance) is a breast cancer survivor, whose experience from her own double mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments made her realize that when the surgery and the oncology ends, the actual recovery really begins.
She formed ChemoWize to be able to offer real help to women who are still experiencing side effects from their treatment long after it has ended.
How it all began:
Alex had always had fibrocystic (lumpy) breasts and having been told that vary rarely these fibroids turned cancerous, diligently aspirated them and had yearly breast exams and mammograms.
Moving to Palo Alto in 2010, her routine yearly exam routine was interrupted, but she wasn’t worried when she began to feel “tingling” in her right breast, as she was 52 and thought the occasional engorgement was the onset of menopause. But the tingling feelings made her make the effort to go to Stanford for a mammogram instead of waiting for her return to Southern California, where she had a 15year medical history and was comfortable with the doctors and hospital.
Even when the results of her mammogram came back as “suspicious”, she just though that Stanford didn’t know her lumpy breast syndrome and didn’t have her full history, so she flew back to Southern California to see her own doctors. After her second mammogram results showed speckling along the ductal lines, her doctor performed a core biopsy, where sections of the breast tissue were removed and immediately checked the results – ductal cancer in both breasts, stage 0.
A visit to the breast surgeon confirmed these findings, and a double mastectomy was the only treatment, as ductal cancer is splashed about the breasts like buckshot and a lumpectomy would not be effective. Prepared for the mastectomy and immediate reconstruction she chose, Alex was surprised to wake up from surgery and learn she had a secondary, more advanced cancer that had taken over her fibroid tumors – most of her right breast was cancerous and it had spread to her first lymph node.
Chemotherapy was needed to ensure that any pre-cancerous or cancerous cells would be killed.
To be grateful for cancer is an odd concept, but Alex was grateful she had developed the easily detectible ductal cancer, as she had no idea that the secondary Her2/Neu cancer had rapidly eaten through her right breast and into her lymphatic system. This would only have been detected by a sonogram, not a mammogram. Luckily, only the sentinel node, the first node, contained the Her/2 cancer. The additional 17 nodes removed were clean.
10 chemotherapy treatments, 3 weeks apart, began a month after her double mastectomy. Recovery from the double mastectomy was the easy part. It was chemotherapy that did the most damage to her body and she employed numerous nutritional, homeopathic, natural and physical remedies and disciplines to recover from the life saving but body damaging poisons. Her oncologist, surgeon and plastic surgeon were amazed at her rate of improvement and the fullness of her recovery, but not able to recommend what she did to her patients. Most of the remedies, treatments and services she employed were not FDA approved for cancer treatment and not covered by her insurance. Alex formed ChemoWize to raise funds to help other women obtain the same goods and services she employed so they too could completely recover from the ravages of chemotherapy and get their bodies and lives back.
Diagnosed in June 2011, her double mastectomy was performed in September 2011. To date she remains cancer free.