Breast cancer patient Denise Albert, co-founder of The Moms, a lifestyle brand on television, the internet and in print, is saying she was subjected to a "horrific" body search by Transportation Security Administration agents at the Los Angeles International Airport over the weekend.
Albert was traveling for The Moms' Mamarazzi event, according to People, to promote the animated film "Sing" when she was pulled aside by aggressive TSA agents for a full-body pat-down, which she says was initiated because of the medical cream she had packed in her carry-on luggage.
"I have never been so humiliated or felt more violated in my life," Albert wrote in a blog post about the ordeal. "I went through the scanning machine at the airport without incident. I had already told them about my metal port and my medical cream which I removed from my bag for them to see and test as I have done on prior flights. I don’t know what was different this time but TSA agents aggressively attempted to do a body cavity search in public."
The TSA agents forced Albert to remove her shoes, which she protested "because I have open sores and infections from my treatment, which is why I have the cream." She complied, anyway.
But perhaps the most difficult for Albert, who has had a lumpectomy, was when the security officers told her they had to pat down her breasts, "us[ing] as much pressure" as necessary "to clear the area." In addition, Albert was forced to remove her wig — the first time she's done so publicly, aside from two appearances at breast cancer awareness events.
Albert recorded a portion of the encounter and uploaded it to her Facebook page. "You can't touch me there," she said emphatically when the TSA agent tried to inspect her chest.
"I got really upset, and I didn’t want them to touch my head. I didn’t want them to touch my wig," Albert told People when they tried to pat around her head and hair. "I think anybody who has been through cancer treatment where you lose your hair — it just affects you so deeply and emotionally. As strong as I am everyday, it’s a very emotional experience. … I didn’t want them touching my head. It caused me a lot of anxiety and I just started crying."
"When I kept asking why they needed to do all of this," she explained, "they kept saying because I wanted to bring medical cream on the plane."
The intense encounter lasted a little over a minute and ended only when two female supervisors arrived and took Albert to a private room "for a regular soft pat down," Albert said.
Albert was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2015. She began chemotherapy in February and radiation in August after having the lumpectomy. While her doctors assume she is now cancer-free, she tested positive for the HER2 gene, which means, if the cancer returns, it can come back anywhere.
She is still being treated every three weeks with two immunotherapy drugs, which will continue until May.
She said she "completely understands" that the TSA has a job to do that is not always comfortable for travelers, but added, "This was not in line with their protocol and their guidelines and I know that because I have been traveling with my medial condition and I did follow everything that I was supposed to do."
According to Albert, an official with the TSA has called to apologize for the agents' poor behavior and has said the 3,000 administration officers at LAX will be immediately retrained on how to handle travelers with medical conditions.
"They were very apologetic that I experienced this and they are not happy with the way that the agents handled the situation," Albert said, adding, "I’m really hopeful that this won’t happen to other people."