Another amazing warrior – Ali Heitz (daughter of beloved artist and mom, Kerri Rosenthal) – shares her story of battling – and surviving – breast cancer at the young age of 30….
One year ago, I was on a plane back to Westport from LA for a quick trip. I was heading home for my friend’s wedding as well as photo shoots scheduled for Kerri Rosenthal, a brand my mother and I created. I went to all of my doctors while I was home, one of which was my OBGYN as I had felt a small lump above my left breast against my chest wall. It was higher than my breast, so I truly didn’t think anything of it. Pretty quickly, they sent me to have a mammogram/ultrasound and then a biopsy, although they said “it was probably nothing.”
That Friday, I sat at my desk on Main Street overlooking the Saugatuck river and I heard a ding on my computer. The results were in My Chart. I quickly opened it while surrounded by all my coworkers, and it read “invasive ductal carcinoma.” I was in complete shock – I’m pretty sure I walked out to the parking lot and laid down in the street.
Very quickly, my mom was on the phone with Concierge Physicians of Westport, my general practitioner, Dr. Nina Karol, who assembled my dream team. Dr. Zelkowitz, an Oncologist, met us at his office the very next day, which was a Saturday and did everything in his power to get this moving as quickly as possible. That week I was diagnosed with Stage 1-A, grade 2 Her2 positive breast cancer.
By Monday, I was taking the steps necessary to freeze my eggs with Illume Fertility. By mid-October, I had my lumpectomy with Yale, and was able to squeeze in one more round of egg retrieval after that. The next step would be 12 rounds of Taxol chemotherapy. I was able to use cold cap therapy at Saint Vincent’s through Pink Aid’s generous donation of the machines.
Fast forward to the end of January (2023) and I was done with chemo and able to go back to LA to finish the rest of my treatment. I did 20 rounds of radiation, five of which were targeted and continue to get immunotherapy infusions (Herceptin) through the end of this year. The doctors also are keeping me in a medical menopause to keep my risk lower for the next 5-10 years.
Today, I am eagerly awaiting the results of my one year MRI and biopsy but I have a smile on my face, knowing that I was able to get through this most challenging time and because I know I can do absolutely anything!
Ali and her mom Kerri are very involved in Pink Aid, the only national organization providing Compassionate Support and Rapid Emergency Financial Assistance to patients in treatment, supporting families during this critical time. This year, for Pink Aid’s annual fundraiser at Mitchell’s in Westport, Kerri partnered with Bloomingdales & Aqua to do a collab for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which will be auctioned off to support the amazing organization. Ali and her mom have stood strong together along Ali’s journey, and have served as an amazing example and inspiration to us all.