Denise Albert says she was concerned for her health during Sunday’s “horrific” body search by TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport, which was prompted by her having medical cream in her bag.
Albert, who had a lumpectomy in August, still has a port in her chest from the surgery.
“I wasn’t angry at that point, I was scared. And I was, I was in shock, and overwhelmed and upset and humiliated,” she tells PEOPLE.
“Once you’ve been through cancer treatment, there’s just so many things that trigger emotions. And for some reason, when they said they would have to pat me down and apply pressure in you know, all these different areas, I just got so upset,” Albert, 42, says.
She is currently considered cancer-free, but because she carries the HER2 gene, cancer could return at any time. Albert still receives two immunotherapy drugs every three weeks, and also packed a medical cream for her treatment in her carry-on. She says the cream hasn’t been an issue on other flights, and that she made the TSA agents aware of it this time as usual, but it triggered the pat-down.
After the incident, Albert received a call from Kimberly Walton, the assistant administrator for Civil Rights and Liberty, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement at the TSA.
“She did tell me that this did not live up to their standards, and that they are very disappointed in this from what they’ve seen so far, and that they are continuing to investigate,” Albert explains. “She also told me that they are going to retrain the three thousand agents at LAX.”
Four days after the incident, Albert is looking at the positive.
“It’s really nice for me to tell my kids that something bad happened, but there is good to come out of it. People together can make a difference.”