I was a member of the Joffrey Concert Group in NYC when I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in June 2014. I was only 23 years old and had no risk factors for breast cancer other than being female. Results from a subsequent genetics screening showed that I did not carry the genes linked to breast cancer.
I had a large, aggressive tumor that grew very quickly and spread to my bones and lymph nodes. I moved back home to be with my family and began treatment at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
Fortunately, my type of breast cancer (positive for Her2, ER & PR) responds very well to the drug Herceptin. My tumor began shrinking after my first chemo treatment on 7/1/14 and continued to shrink until it was completely gone. The pathology report following my double mastectomy on 12/26/14 found no cancer in either breast or lymph nodes. I had a pathological complete response. Six days after surgery, I was back in the studio working to regain my strength, stamina, and technique. I hope to return to dance in NYC again.
Once breast cancer metastasizes to another body part, it is very, very difficult to know if all the cancer has really left the body after treatment. Tiny, undetectable cancer cells could be lurking dormant in the body. If these cells come to life, the cancer will return. That is why metastatic (stage 4) breast cancer is considered incurable. To keep the cancer cells dormant, I will remain on medications for the rest of my life or until a cure is found. The cost of these medications is enormous: $4,000 to $9,000 per dose, per drug. I receive two drugs every 3 weeks, and a 3rd drug every 4 weeks. I hope to join a clinical trial testing a treatment that will keep my cancer from returning.
My story has appeared in People.com, TODAY.com, Now This, the Daily Mail.com, Vogue.com, Glamour.com, Dance Spirit Magazine and many others. A feature story created by WBAL-TV in Baltimore was broadcast by NBC affiliates across the USA and I was featured in a story by Tom Costello for NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. I was honored to be the subject of Glamour’s video Every Scar Tells a Story which won a 2017 Webby award.
I am a passionate advocate for metastatic breast cancer and in 2016, spoke on Capitol Hill about this issue. I was honored to model in the 2017 and 2018 NY Fashion Week runway shows for AnaOno Intimates #Cancerland where I walked the entire runway en pointe. I work with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, METAvivor, the Tigerlily Foundation, the Dancers Care Foundation, iDance4aCure, and Dancers Against Cancer to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer. I travels throughout the United States giving master ballet classes and speaking to young dancers and young women about metastatic breast cancer. I have produced four annual benefit dance concerts featuring nationally recognized professional dancers and talented students from the top local studios.