Name: Alexis Ann D’Elia
Location: Mineola, New York
Occupation: Part time Physician in Cardiovascular Disease, Full time cancer survivor.
Alexis D’Elia has embraced her life with an open heart, both figuratively and literally. This cardiologist in New York is working to save lives following having to save her own. After a journey that has included surviving a category 5 hurricane in the West Indies, undergoing her training at one of the more respected cardiovascular teaching facilities on the east coast, and triumphing over metastatic cancer.
“I was diagnosed with an aggressive and advanced form of breast cancer in January of this year,” Alexis explains. “I found the lump myself because I did routine self-breast exams. I can’t emphasize the importance of self-breast exams enough to young women. My cancer was the size of a peanut, but because I had been doing self breast exams since my early twenties, I picked it up as abnormal and checked it out.”
Being a discerning doctor, and courageous to her core, Alexis opted for a bilateral mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. The ordeal was excruciating.
“There were more than a few days I just laid in bed crying and feeling cheated in life,” she admits. “But even at the lowest point there is a voice inside of you that wants to fight. It says, Yeah, this is awful, but guess what? the sun is going to rise tomorrow and it’s another day, and if you’re alive, Alexis, you had better live it like its your last.”
What I now know is that is the “mental you” is far stronger than your physical self. Your body is the vessel that carries you through life, but your true strength and beauty lies within.
It was this fierce determination that led Alexis to fight through her treatments, continuing to be active by riding a recumbent bicycle, walking, and going through physical therapy.
“What I now know is that is the “mental you” is far stronger than your physical self. Your body is the vessel that carries you through life, but your true strength and beauty lies within,” she says. Wise words from a wise woman who’s about to dedicate her life to helping people.
“Everything I learned about the heart was complex and elegant,” she says when talking about what led her to specialize in cardiology. “Patients will come to you that are in dire need for intensive treatment, and the challenge exists to correct, heal and save lives. It’s a fast paced field with new research emerging daily about novel treatments, surgeries and minimally invasive strategies to fix complex disease processes. I like that I’m a woman in what had been a historically male dominated field, and I also like that there are more women these days entering the field of cardiology. I want to specialize in women’s health and cardiovascular wellness because there is a comfort level that exists when two women connect. I want to educate women that cardiovascular disease isn’t only a man’s disease.”
“Find support. Life isn’t meant to be tackled alone. Reach out to any group or organization that can offer you help,” she says. “In medical school that meant joining a study group; during cancer it meant calling upon cancer navigators Livestrong and Imerman Angels, both are organizations that provide one-on-one cancer mentor support. This world is very small. You’d be surprised how much smaller it can be when you reach out and make connections to people around you. Never, ever feel ashamed to cry. It cleans the slate and shockingly makes you feel stronger afterwards.”
For her heartfelt words, fortitude, and example, we think that Alexis D’Elia is a very Cool Girl! In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we suggest checking out the American Breast Cancer Society homepage, where you can find team pages where you can pledge your support, like Alexis’ page for the Making Strides event in Jones Beach, New York.http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/MakingStridesAgainstBreastCancer/MSABCCY13EA?px=34731666&pg=personal&fr_id=55922
You can also check out Fighting Pretty, a non- profit organization that gives care packages to women going through cancer. Alexis also gives credit to Brooklyn-based photographer and doctor Megan Kwasniak for the glorious photo of her courageous cropped post-cancer ‘do. Gorgeous!