First and foremost
Before I really get into this I'd like to proactively address a few common responses and comments of confusion I get when talking about this topic. This is not a breast reduction. This is not a "boob job." This is not a cosmetic decision or one made because I’m having back pain. This is a proactive health decision made to address an increased risk of cancer. Okay? Okay. Let’s get started!
As some of you who know me or have read my earlier posts know, my mom died of breast cancer when I was ten. In many cases, breast cancer is not always genetic. In my case it is.
This blog will detail my experience dealing with the BRCA2 mutation, my decision for how I choose to be proactive with my health knowing I have a mutation, and everything that process entails. Read on to find out what the hell I’m talking about here.
The bad news
When I was 16 I started seeing genetic counselors to assess my options and risk in receiving the BRCA mutation from my mother. I received a blood test when I was 18 and a freshman in college. After leaving my freshman stats class several weeks later I received a call confirming that I carried the BRCA 2 mutation. That’s right, I’m a mutant. I was prepared for the worst but I’ll be honest, it hit me pretty hard.
So what’s this mean for me? Several things:
I am 6x more likely to develop breast cancer by the time I turn 70 than the average woman. Studies vary, but on average that comes out to about an 85% chance of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer tends to develop at a younger age in women with BRCA mutations. My mom was 36 when diagnosed and her cancer had already started to spread to other parts of her body.
I am NOT okay with those odds.
The better news?
I have decided to undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. This basically means that they will remove all of the tissue from my chest and underarms that could possibly become cancerous decreasing my risk of breast cancer by 95%. Those are odds I can deal with. Following a six-week recovery period, I will then begin the reconstructive phase of my surgery.
When I say reconstruction, well, you guessed it. That means fake breasts- hence the title of this blog. The whole process can take upwards of six months, putting a serious ripple in my post-graduation plans.
I know this sounds scary and trust me I’m terrified, but you know what’s even more frightening? Cancer. Some people have let on that they think I’m being rash or unreasonable. “What if you never even get cancer?” Statistically, it's pretty likely that I will.
As someone who has personally watched someone very close to her battle with, and lose a battle with cancer, I’m just not going to chance it. Not to mention once you have cancer once you're 10x more likely to get it a second time. I’m looking at the positives here:
No more constant concern about my cancer risk, something no 21-year-old should have to think about as much as I do.
I can go down a couple of bra sizes in the reconstruction process- no more ordering specialty swimsuits from Europe and tripling up on sports bras. That's a small win.
The timing is right. As much as I would love to graduate and begin the next phase of my life, I will have no obligations or commitments and will have a loving family to help me through my recovery. If I don’t do it now, I don’t think I ever will.
I know some of those positives are pretty trivial but hey, a girl has to take what she can get in light of a pretty awful situation, right?
I decided to blog about this journey for several reasons. To start, it can get exhausting explaining my situation on such a regular basis. Secondly, when I was doing research about my options, there were very few women my age (21) who had publicly documented their journey with the BRCA mutation. I thought if I could ease the mind of anyone else going through this and provide some extra context and awareness, then hell, why not.
I plan on continuing to blog about this journey as it unfolds. My surgery is scheduled for May 11th, 2015, about a week after my college graduation. Subscribe or check in every now and again if you’d like to keep updated on this whole process.
Feel free to email or comment if you have any questions or input based on your own personal experiences. I love hearing from you all.