“I feel fantastic,” the actress, 48, tells PEOPLE. “It’s all gone now! Now there’s nothing.”
Haje almost didn’t get diagnosed at all. In 2015, she was dealing with intense stomach pain, but her general doctor thought it was just acid reflux, or a gluten intolerance. Frustrated, she decided to take herself to NYU Medical Center and wait for the first oncologist she could see.
“The pain was in my tummy. Every time I would eat, I would bloat terribly. And even when I didn’t eat, it was painful to have any kind of bodily functions,” Haje explains. “And it turned out, it was because I had little growths. I didn’t have cancer in my stomach, but the radioactive PET scan showed that I had something by my liver, and something by my spleen, and something by my bowel. I had metastasized breast cancer.”
“I was shocked and devastated. I knew something was wrong, but any time someone tells you you have metastasized cancer, it’s an overwhelming, terrifying, fearful experience. Sadly, we are not in a place where the first thing you are is hopeful, when you get a diagnosis like that.”
It didn’t help that the diagnosis came out of left field for Haje. Though she had been diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer three years prior, it was quickly removed from her left breast and never showed up on her regular checks for new growths.
“There was no reason for me to get cancer, which is a scary part,” she says. “I didn’t have any markers for breast cancer. Genetically, I’m not predisposed to have it. I don’t have the mutation of the BRCA-1 gene. I’ve never smoked, I’ve always been at a quote ‘healthy’ weight. I had been a pescatarian for seven years when I was diagnosed. But there it was!”
“The oncologist who first examined me said, ‘Wow! You’re perfectly healthy!’ Well, except for this cancer! Nothing completely precludes us from getting cancer, which is why we need these treatments and cures.”
Haje did her research, and approached her doctor about any available medical trials. They settled on the SM-88 treatment, which involved simply taking a pill and doing a subcutaneous injection once a day, every day. The treatment is non-toxic, with only minor side effects.
“I’m pretty much known for my red hair, but whatever’s in it makes your skin a bit darker, and your hair a bit darker,” she says. “For me, it was an adjustment, but believe me, I’m not complaining! I’m super lucky that I didn’t lose any of my hair.”
And even better, her growths started to disappear within a year.
“The first scan that did not light up for cancer was last year, and two months later, they gave me another scan that did not light up for cancer, and then they gave me ANOTHER scan that did not light up for cancer,” Haje says. “I heard about another trial, and I asked if I could join, and they said I wasn’t a candidate for it, because I didn’t have any evidence of cancer that they could find. And I said ‘OH!’ It was just an overwhelming feeling of relief and joy.”
Haje still takes the pills today, almost a year after she first started hearing that the growths were gone, and is hoping that the treatment will be approved by the FDA soon.
“It’s been a blessing for me, and I want to share that. I want every man or woman who gets a terrifying diagnosis, to be able to move into the hope for a cure, or at the very least, a treatment that still allows them to live their full, thriving life,” she says.
“I keep saying, ‘I’m so lucky, I’m so lucky.’ And my friends will say, ‘You were diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, how are you lucky??’ And I say, ‘I am! I found this treatment, and I responded to it. And I don’t suffer.’ “