Posted on

‘Stage 4 and thriving’

‘Stage 4 and thriving’
‘Stage 4 and thriving’
Dr. Wayne Willis

During the summer of 2012, while she was teaching at her daughter’s high school band camp, 37-year-old Alana Auslander-Price experienced pain in her breast. Most women have their first mammogram in their 40s. Alana had never had a mammogram. A full body scan showed not only a cancer in her breast, but cancer that had metastasized to her liver and spine. She was in Stage 4 breast cancer, a critical, life-threatening diagnosis. Surgeons performed a double mastectomy.

In 2014, a tumor appeared on her sternum. In 2018, lymph nodes pressed on her airway. Just this past summer, new spots were discovered on her lungs.

The Oct. 26, 2019, edition of Today’s Woman magazine published an article, “Finding Light in Cancer’s Shadow,” that featured a picture of a smiling Alana holding open her blouse to reveal a blue and purple dragonfly with a 15-inch wingspan tattooed on the skin of her chest. A soft green ivy vine grows in the background and a pink victory-over-cancer insignia wraps around the dragonfly’s long body.

Why a dragonfly? Dragonflies are symbols of courage, strength and happiness. Alana says that she chose the dragonfly as her symbol of resilience. “I’m stage 4 and thriving.”

She has this advice for women who may find themselves in a similar life and death struggle:

1. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Each journey is so different.

2. Be an advocate for your body. Don’t be satisfied with “just watching it for six months. If I had, I wouldn’t be here.”

3. Don’t let a diagnosis be the defining factor of your life. You have more power over the outcome when you take control of your health.

“My scars,” Alana says, “have always looked like wings to me.”