I never really worried or thought much about cancer … until my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28. At the time, I was 21 years old, naive, in college, worried about what plans I had for the weekend, and didn’t really grasp what that meant. More than ten years later, my sister is gone, my mom is gone (ovarian cancer), my aunt is in treatment for colorectal cancer, my other sister just had her own scare, and although I am BRCA mutation uninformed negative, I underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and started the breast reconstruction process on January 22, 2013. I said NOPE to breast cancer.
Making the decision to undergo such a drastic surgery was both very difficult and extremely easy at the same time. It came after 10 years of vigilant screenings, when anxiety gripped me every six months as I prepared for my sonogram, mammogram, or MRI, anticipating the results to be the worst. When a screening discovered suspicious lumps, I knew that the time had come.
The reconstruction process was long, painful, and complicated (documented here on my blog). More than two years and eight surgeries later I can finally say I am done! No regrets. If I had to go through this all over again, knowing what complications were in store, I would make the same decision in a heartbeat.
It is not the right answer for everyone facing breast cancer and one that should not be taken lightly or made without research, consulting with experts/doctors, considering alternative options (screening, chemoprevention, holistic approaches, lifestyle changes), and understanding the consequences.
There are many resources out there that can help. The My Destiny Foundation and its Facebook support group has been there for me for the last three years, since the days I was making surgery prep lists and had lots of unanswered questions about my upcoming procedure and following recovery. The group is a family of strong women from all over the world that support each other, laugh together, cry together, and everything in between. Visit www.mydestiny-us.com to learn more. If you need support, request to join the Facebook support group. See you there!
Making such decisions is hard enough during a cancer diagnosis, can’t imagine what it must feel like to make them because of the high risk. I admire you for that. I already had a family history of cancers (ovarian and breast) but the closest was my grandmother. If I knew I had this ATM gene before my diagnosis, I would have made some decisions — including having my child. I now realize how important it is to learn about your genetic makeup and cancer risks. Too bad many people would rather not know, I respect that, but…kind of risky.
I am glad you had the opportunity get tested and that you were able to make a wise decision.Thanks for sharing about My Destiny Foundation. xo
I agree, I got tested for the BRCA gene after being diagnosed and am amazed that no one else in my family want stop get tested, even thought different cancers run through my family. I envy your bravery.
Wishing the very best future… Moving forward xxxx
I had my single mastectomy in April and have an expander in that breast. In November, I will have the other breast removed, and eventual implants. Wow, why eight surgeries? I started out thinking I’d get a mastectomy with reconstruction, and didn’t know it wasn’t just ONE surgery, but serval. It’s good you are educating people.
I expected two surgeries, but unfortunately experienced some complications and had to have additional procedures. While complications are relatively rare, they do happen. I am now three months out from my most recent surgery and happy to say that all is well this time! I hope your exchange surgery in November goes well and there are no speed bumps along the way!