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BMC Keeps Pianist's Breast Cancer in Check and Her Career on Track

When professional pianist Alexandra Costin was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30, it shook her to her very core.

"It was an out-of-body experience," described the newly married Alexandra. "It was like I didn't fully understand what was going on, like my doctor was speaking a different language, and then I looked at my husband, and he started to cry."

Once Alexandra had come to terms with her diagnosis, she was determined to treat the disease as just one of life's hurdles. She entered Boston Medical Center's Cancer Care Center with one request: That her cancer treatments not interfere with her music career.

"One of the major complications of surgery for breast cancer is swelling of the arm and the hand, and given that she was a concert pianist, we knew that had the potential to end her career," explained Chief of BMC's Surgical Oncology Section, Michael Stone, MD.

At BMC's Cancer Care Center, oncology specialists hold a weekly multidisciplinary breast cancer conference in which the entire team collaborates on a comprehensive evaluation, and plans the best, most individualized treatment regimen and follow-up care for patients with breast cancer. For Alexandra, it meant timing her chemotherapy and surgery around her fall European tour schedule while still treating her cancer as effectively as possible.

"I told Dr. Stone that he had until September 16 to heal me, and that's it!" joked Alexandra. "They scheduled everything to let me have that month not to feel like a patient anymore."

After a summer of chemotherapy treatments under the observation of hematologist Rita Blanchard, MD, Alexandra boarded a plane bound for Bucharest to begin a series of European concerts. Although the tour was physically exhausting, it was crucial to Alexandra to maintain a sense of normalcy in her life and do what she loved most.

She returned to Boston in October to undergo surgery to remove the cancer. Dr. Stone performed the surgery specifically to help Alexandra maintain optimum arm and hand function. Radiation therapy came next to help reduce the risk of her cancer's recurrence. After her treatment, Dr. Stone is confident her music career can continue to flourish.

"There is nothing I could say to show how grateful I am. There are no words," said Alexandra.

Music rather than words is how Alexandra expressed her thanks. She performed a beautiful nocturne by Chopin for her doctors and hundreds of BMC staff and supporters during the 16th annual BMC Gala celebration, which raised $2.2 million for the hospital.

Learn more about Alexandra Costin.

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