Alison LoCoco was in her 30s and pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer in 2021. Her treatment included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy. This is her story in her own words.
My two kids are 23 months apart. I was rolling off breastfeeding my oldest when I started feeling a lump on my right breast. It was right around my daughter’s first birthday in August 2020. The lump felt like a milk duct that hadn’t cleared from breastfeeding or something. I thought it was weird, but also thought it was remaining hormones or something. I mentioned it to my primary care doctor, and she said we’d watch it, so I went about my business. I was aware of it, but it wasn’t bothering me.
That November, I got pregnant again and my breasts changed immediately. That was my first telltale sign I was pregnant. And that lump spot just started throbbing and growing. I told my OB and she ordered an ultrasound immediately, but unfortunately I was sick with a sinus infection when it was scheduled and it was during COVID-19, so I had to wait.
I finally went in for a right breast ultrasound in January 2021. The radiologist was a visiting doctor, who had no bedside manner and wore everything on his face. I was 17 weeks pregnant getting an ultrasound alone because of COVID, and cancer was written all over this guy’s face.
I had three biopsies two weeks after that. And that was it, I was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer. I was devastated, scared, worried about the baby, worried about my health and sad for my almost 2-year-old at home who had a sick mommy – mom guilt had fully set in. I continued with routine diagnosis steps when I was 20 weeks pregnant, including a mammogram, X-ray, additional blood work and multiple body scans. I remember my OB and oncology team working effortlessly together to ensure both mom and baby were safe through every step. It was so reassuring to this nervous, scared mama. When I hit 24 weeks (safe enough for baby), I had a lumpectomy and lymph node removal. After five weeks of recovery, I started two rounds of chemotherapy and physical therapy.
I had six weeks off from any treatment until my son was born in July 2021. He was perfectly healthy with no problems with him or the delivery. Truly amazing what a great care team and treatment plan can do. I was able to breastfeed him for six weeks, then I had to wean him and was right back into 12 weeks of chemotherapy, followed by radiation and a full year of immunotherapy and physical therapy – all this with a newborn and 2-year-old at home and working full time!
Right after I was diagnosed, my nurse navigator said to me, “I have a woman who went through this all and is your age – do you want to talk to her?” I didn’t hesitate. I said yes right away. I met Kate right before treatment started. As soon we met, I knew we were going to be lifelong friends, bonded by super rare experiences. She knew exactly what I was going through as she was pregnant when she was diagnosed and had treatments too.
Kate was the neutral party I needed. I could text her at any time and she’d answer me. She was a friend who knew exactly what I needed to hear and how to approach what I was going through. My daughter (my oldest) was about 18 months old when this all happened, and I had a lot of internal guilt as a mother. It was so hard to accept help – someone washing my hair because I couldn’t shower after surgery, people taking care of my son and daughter, neighbors and family cooking for us, parents cleaning for us, etc. Kate was the voice of reason I needed in getting me to see that I needed to accept the help and support, and how to manage all that. It helped me so much to have someone who went through this with me for every step.
I completed all treatments in October 2022, and am so fortunate to be able to say I’m a survivor. I still have some long-lasting side effects, and have ongoing therapy for my right shoulder and arm due to surgery and radiation. Every day was and continues to be a mental game to stay positive and move forward from this journey.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.
Learn more about breast cancer treatment during pregnancy.
Listen to Alison and Kate share their story.