When Denise Albert, co founder of The MOMS – a multi-media mom-centric brand and event company – found out she had breast cancer five weeks ago, she made a decision to share her discovery. “On our radio show, on our TV segments and at our events we talk about our lives,” Denise, 41, tells PEOPLE. “If I wasn’t open about this, I wouldn’t feel I was being honest.”
The mom of two, who brings together celebrity moms with moms across the country to talk about parenting, has been open about everything from her divorce to dating on her blog Divorce Diaries for The Huffington Post and on the weekly Sirius XM radio show The MOMS. Here, she writes about the lump she discovered last December.
I was finally happy. I am happily divorced although the process was not as smooth or friendly as I had hoped it. The separation in 2012 was my choice and I wouldn’t change it. My two boys, 11 and 7, have never been better; although it was rough for a while. I’m close with both of my parents (TNT sportscaster Marv Albert and his ex-wife, Benita, a lawyer). I have an incredible family and group of friends. I enjoy life. A lot.
I am a #FullTimeWorkingStayAtHomeMom. I co-founded my business, The MOMS, with my #Workwife, Melissa Gerstein, with a combination of hard work and our backgrounds in journalism and television. We formed a community for parents and bloggers. We are still building our business and our brand. We were just about to build it more.
Since my divorce, I dated. And I lived. I wasn’t looking for anything more. Then I met Jeremy, a happily divorced dad. It wasn’t easy. He lives in New Jersey with three kids. I live in New York City with two. I finally understood love and what it’s like to be a part of a team. Our situation was complicated. After a year and a half, we figured out how to make it work. Round two rocks, we thought.
My boys have been through a lot. Separation. Divorce. Moving. Their dad’s re-marriage. A learning difference for one and an allergic anaphylactic reaction and emergency hospitalization for another. My boys have a lot of good too. Loving families. Great friends. Incredible experiences through my business, including events with their favorite celebrities, Kevin James, Will Smith and Jennifer Garner – and even a visit to the White House.
And now their entire world will change. My world will change. I will have a lumpectomy on Monday and then begin chemo and radiation in February. I’m the one in eight who get cancer. Five weeks ago, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. At 41 years old.
I had a mammogram in August and it was fine. I also had one at 35 and 40 years old. I’ve been careful. I don’t have any family history. Weeks after the test this past summer, I got a letter which said, “The tissue of both breasts is heterogeneously dense. This may lower the sensitivity of mammography. No significant masses, calcifications, or other findings are seen in either breast. There is no mammographic evidence of malignancy. A one year screening mammogram is recommended.”
I didn’t even know what a dense breast meant. How was I to know that I should have had an ultrasound? No one told me. I said to my boyfriend, “I don’t love this letter” – but didn’t do anything about it. Then I felt a small lump in November. I wasn’t even looking. But it hurt. I forgot about it. It hurt again in December and I called a friend, a radiation oncologist. She sent me right to the hospital for tests. First an ultrasound. Then a biopsy. I got the call a day later: “You tested positive for breast cancer.”
I spent the next three weeks meeting with many doctors. Oncologists, surgeons, plastic surgeons. More tests. MRIs. More biopsies. EKGs. Genetic testing. They all confirmed – Stage 1 breast cancer.
I had to tell my boys something. They know I found a lump. They know I will need surgery. My 11-year-old asked: “Will you lose your hair?’ “Yes” “Will you wear a wig?” “Yes.”
When I told them it is cancer, the 7-year-old threw his hands in the air and said, “Wait. This is good. People don’t die from breast cancer. You will live.”
All I can think about is how will I care for my boys. This is the downside of divorce. This is the first time I actually think of myself as a single mom. I’ve always said my boys have a dad; we just don’t live together. But now, when I’m sick, how will I do it? I know the answer. But it’s scary, regardless. I’ll just do it. That’s who I am. I’m strong. I’m tough. I’ll get through this. I’ll call on friends. I’ll rely on family. It’s the only way.
I plan on living, working and loving throughout. I just may need some extra support. And now, at just 41, I call myself a future cancer survivor.
Denise’s sportscaster dad admires her strength. “At first, the news struck all of us in the gut,” says Marv. “But Denise is amazing, and with all that is going on in her life she’s handled it with openness, intelligence, sheer grace and believe it or not, at times, with a sense of humor.”
“Her strength and courage going through this has been off the charts,” he adds. “We all have such love and admiration for Denise, but to tell you the truth I’d expect nothing less from my wonderful daughter.”
• Reporting by LIZ MCNEIL