Before I bring you along on my journey, let me begin by briefly introducing myself. My name is Alicia Zangre. 41 years young. I have a daughter, Ella, and a son, Frankie. Life has thrown me into a crazy tailspin over the past year and a half. I am here now to share with you my story. Thank you, God for giving me a second chance at life. If my story encourages and inspires at least one of you, then it was worth the fight of my life.
I was 39 years old when I was told that I had breast cancer. The words pierced my heart and soul. All I could think about were my two young children living their life without their mother. I was at work when I received the call. I raced home to meet my husband and mother. I made a phone call to Dr. Deitch (one of my living angels) and got an appointment almost immediately. With the collaborative efforts of myself, family, and Dr. Deitch we concluded that a double mastectomy was the best route. I simultaneously felt fright and ease. I needed the cancer gone. I needed EVERYTHING gone. I then met with Dr. Veera (another one of my angels on earth). She helped me realize that while a huge piece of my body would be no longer, I could still be a strong beautiful woman. I felt so strong and so positive up until the date of my surgery. I wanted to show my kids how strong their mom was. With the support of my husband, friends, family, and work-family, I felt so completely ready to conquer this disease. I went into the operating room smiling knowing that I was in the best possible hands. Dr. Deitch rubbed my arm until I fell asleep. The double mastectomy left me with physical and mental scars. I was in agony. The pain was unbearable and I was just so sad. I cried OFTEN. My husband just sat there and comforted me. He gave me the extra boost every time I needed it. He never once complained while taking care of my drainage, washing my hair, listening to my cries, working, and making sure our kids were ok. I pray that if I am ever put in the position that he was, I rise to the occasion and provide him with the exact same support. Thank you, Michael. Months later, Dr. Veera completed the process of my reconstruction. She was such a bright light and reassured me that I would feel whole again. Thank you, Dr. Veera for your nurturance, guidance, and realness.
I am a year and a half out from my initial surgery. I have learned to see life through a different lens. So many things seem more beautiful. Moments are embraced harder. The sun shines brighter. I would not be human if I did not experience days of darkness and sadness though. Those days happen and I realize now that it is ok. I know that it is ok to feel weak and fragile. I underwent something that is completely unnatural for a woman to experience. Soon after, those dark moments dissipate, and I smile again. My children, at the pure ages of 10 and 6, remind me that life is beautiful despite this obstacle we have managed to overcome. How lucky am I to share my story with all of you? I am honored to be given this chance. A fellow warrior friend lived the last year of his life battling cancer, sharing the words “We Get To.” These words resonate deeply with me. “We get to” share our stories and “we get to” empower each other through the saddest and hardest times of our lives. If you were just diagnosed with breast cancer or are struggling with your decisions or have been battling it for some time, find the people in your life that lift you up. Let those people help and encourage you. Let those people be the ones you cry to. Keep those people close to your heart, for you will need them for years to come. Thank you for allowing me to share my story and my life with you. Keep up the good fight! Always remember— “We Get To!”