Patient Story: Jessica Baladad

Breast Cancer Survivor

“I wish I had access to prescription KeraStat® Cream for radiation dermatitis, so I could get back to feeling like myself again.” – Jessica Baladad

Jessica Baladad, a 5-year breast cancer survivor and breast health advocate, shared her cancer story with the KeraStat® Cream team in a recent email exchange. We felt like her journey from patient to advocate is remarkable and worth sharing. Whether you are a cancer patient, caregiver, or healthcare professional, we highly recommend reading about Jessica’s experiences.

Jessica was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33. Four generations of her family have battled breast cancer, without any known gene mutations. Treatment for Jessica’s cancer was chemotherapy, followed by a double mastectomy (DMX). After the mastectomy, Jessica was told that residual cancer cells required radiation treatment. Obviously, she wasn’t thrilled about radiation even though she knew it was necessary. Jessica had planned on breast reconstruction, but radiotherapy meant delaying reconstruction surgery.

As many breast cancer survivors know, radiation therapy can be a painful and traumatic experience. Radiation therapy typically causes radiation burns (around 95% of patients receiving radiation therapy experience radiation dermatitis, a painful side effect). By week three of treatment, Jessica’s skin started to burn. According to Jessica, the standard of care for radiation burns was Aquaphor. Most of her friends in the cancer community used it and many hospitals gifted it to patients.

Jessica “hated using Aquaphor” for radiation dermatitis. The instructions were to apply Aquaphor four to five times a day. Aquaphor never really dried, and it would stick to Jessica’s clothes and leave them oily and stained. The oil would also seep through her clothes into her bed sheets. Unfortunately, she ended up throwing away her radiation shirts and bed sheets because she couldn’t stand to look at the stains that would never come out no matter how much she washed them.

“I hated using Aquaphor for radiation dermatitis. It would stick to my clothes and leave them oily and ruined. It didn’t matter how much I washed them. I threw my radiation shirts away after treatment because I couldn’t stand to look at the stains.” – Jessica Baladad

On top of that, Jessica was never sure if Aquaphor was even working or if it had some placebo effect to make her think that pasting an oily substance on her skin was somehow effective. Even with Aquaphor, Jessica said that her skin looked “toasted” for months. The redness of her skin eventually faded, but her chest looked like toast. Summer was approaching after radiation therapy, but Jessica didn’t feel comfortable wearing anything sleeveless. She felt compelled to hide her skin.

Jessica had to wait two long years before being able to have her breast reconstruction surgery. Her surgeon wanted to wait a year because she wanted the DIEP flap. Then, the pandemic caused more delays. That meant two years living with skin that looked like toast.

“After radiation therapy, my chest looked like toast. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing anything sleeveless and I felt compelled to hide my skin.” – Jessica Baladad

Meanwhile, Jessica was told she was cancer free. Yet, her body was left with residual damage that constantly reminded her of what she had gone through. She felt trapped. Trapped in a body that didn’t really reflect who she was. Jessica wanted to move past being a cancer patient, but she never felt like a survivor until her physical wounds healed.

Talking with our team about KeraStat® Cream, Jessica told us that she wishes that she had access to prescription KeraStat® Cream to help her manage radiation dermatitis. She says that if it had been available, KeraStat® Cream could have helped her get back to feeling like herself again.

“I wish I had access to prescription KeraStat® Cream for radiation dermatitis, so I could get back to feeling like myself again.” – Jessica Baladad

Remarkably, Jessica has turned her painful experiences and her trauma into wisdom to be shared. She works tirelessly as a breast health advocate. She founded Feel For Your Life to encourage women to be their own breast health advocates and launched an app that provides resources for doing self-breast exams and getting screened, tracks and monitors health changes, and sets self-exam reminders.