In the midst of her busy life as a mother, wife and multi-faceted career woman, Allison Salzer realized she hadn’t had a mammogram in over six years. Quickly following her appointment, doctors reported areas of concern, and at age 46, Allison was diagnosed with several forms of breast cancer in both breasts.
Rather than getting overwhelmed by the black hole of information that the Internet provides, Allison opted for a more personal approach. She thoughtfully reached out to others who had been down a similar path to learn about their experiences. Through this process, she was able to learn about various treatments, surgical options and ultimately, rid herself of cancer.
To read more about Allison's choices and how she now enjoys supporting other women on their cancer journeys, see our interview below.
Name: Allison Salzer
Location: Marin County, CA
Current Health Status: Excellent
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have three daughters, a wonderful husband and a dog that keeps me on the trails of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County every day. I have always worked, because I wouldn’t know what to do with my down time if I didn’t. My career started in the financial industry, I founded and still run a tutoring company, and currently, I'm a realtor, which I wish I had done a long time ago.
When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was 46 and realized I hadn’t had a mammogram in 6 years, so I scheduled an appointment. After the procedure, the technician had me wait in the room for a doctor, and I knew something was up. They said they found DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), which is not invasive. I knew I would take care of it, but I figured it could wait until after our family vacation. When I finally got around to doing the biopsy (and then of course several more after that), the pathology identified Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, the DCIS that was originally found in the biopsy and another noninvasive condition LCIS (Lobular Carcinoma In Situ). Needless to say, my breasts were riddled with various forms of breast cancer.
What were your first thoughts when you were diagnosed?
Get this cancer out of my body!
How did your friends and family take the news?
I think we were all in shock, but everyone rallied around me and gave me so much support – I am blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.
Describe your treatment and how you arrived at that course of action.
After searching the Internet, which is overloaded with so much information that it can be quite scary, I decided to take a personal approach. Everyone knows someone who has battled breast cancer, so I started networking and talking to people who had been through treatment – to see what worked for them and why they chose their respective path. Every woman had her own story, and it seemed that each treatment ended up being right for that individual – there was no right or wrong answer. So I ultimately went with my initial gut – to get the cancer out of me! I chose a double mastectomy and skipped the chemo.
I also had my ovaries removed. Without going too much into that story, I made the decision to remove my ovaries because of other symptoms I was having. The choice was either to go in for ultrasounds on a regular basis, or just be precautionary and take my ovaries out. I personally wanted to move on and not be burdened by the experience of always looking for cancer.
Were you able to work through treatment?
I actually received a job offer when I was in the hospital, about to go in for surgery. I accepted the position and asked if I could start a month later.
Where and how did you find the best care?
That was a process. I started with an oncologist who was nice. He was surprised I declined the chemo, and started me on a drug called Femera. Since I wasn’t really producing estrogen due to the hysterectomy, the Femera blocked all estrogen and made me CRAZY! One of my colleagues at work told me that his wife worked for a doctor with western training, but also incorporated integrative oncology. I switched over to his practice. He weaned me off of the drug, replaced it with green juice, and I never felt better.
Did you receive any additional support or alternative therapies?
My support was my family and friends. ;)
What or who have been your biggest supports? Who makes up your cancer tribe?
As I keep mentioning, I am blessed to have a wonderful family and amazing friends. My parents and sisters all came to my side, and my friends all pitched in to nurse me back to health. One friend would come over and blow dry my hair because I couldn’t lift my arms. There was a brigade of support – they would take my children to sporting events or make my family dinner, but my biggest support was (and still is!) my wonderful husband who always goes above and beyond to maintain a cohesive family life.
What has been one of the most challenging aspects of the experience for you?
Asking for help after surgery – I am used to doing everything on my own.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you were diagnosed?
How much you need to self-advocate in the medical field. I won't go into detail about not getting test results back from one surgeon for three weeks, but needless to say, I didn’t go with that surgeon.
Is there a particular mantra or inspiration that helps you?
Family and friends inspire me to stay healthy and strong.
If you could offer a woman, who has been newly diagnosed, some words of wisdom for her journey, what would you tell her?
Talk to as many people as you can about their journey – you realize you are not alone in this battle, and there are many avenues to choose for healing – there is no wrong treatment.
What are you most proud of in your cancer journey?
People now reach out to me to help them through their fight with cancer. I am honored to be a go-to person, and I am always happy to help.
How has breast cancer affected your outlook on life? On illness?
I don’t know if cancer has changed my outlook – I have always believed in living life to the fullest and making every day count.
How have you changed?
That is a hard one. Change is constant, and all of our life experiences perpetuate change. I am not sure how being diagnosed with cancer changed my life, but I definitely appreciate the life I have.