Since tomorrow is the last day of October, breast cancer awareness month, I thought I would tell my story of how breast cancer changed my life. It began in 2000 when my mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Nothing but the birth of my children affected me more than seeing one of the people who had taken care of me my whole life so devastated, crying to her mom. She was just so amazing through out everything, so strong... Three years, multiple surgeries and one recurrence later, a doctor recommended genetic testing for the gene mutation for breast cancer. Once it was established that I had the BRCA 1 genetic mutation..meaning I had a 50% to 80% chance of getting breast cancer...many options were discussed but I never thought a prophylactic mastectomy be in my future.
But, after having kids, I decided that I did not want to live with such a high risk of getting cancer...the possibility of one day not being there for my kids. At first I decided that I would have the prophylactic mastectomy when I was 35. Since that was a year or so in the future, I didn't think about the details or ramifications of such a radical surgery. But, spring 2010, I just decided it was time. After first talking a the plastic surgeon and getting the exact details of the surgery and seeing the "after" photos, I almost let my fear get the best of me. So, August 28, 2010 I had the first of 5 surgeries.
Ok, so a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy...the quick general information...not to go into all the details... 14 hour surgery where the go in and remove all the breast tissue. Then, they proceed to do a total reconstruction of the chest. Then, since I did not want implants, they used the fat from my stomach for the reconstruction. It is done in the form of a tummy tuck and an incision from hip to hip.
After about a week in the hospital, 2 severe infections, and 5 more surgeries over the next 6 months here I sit with a 1% chance of getting breast cancer...less than the average person on the street.
Sometimes, I think is a good thing they don't explain all the specific details, especially the recovery, because if I had know how hard it was going to be, I might have had second thoughts. I have a scar from hip to hip that got infected and has been reopened multiple times...hopefully closed for business! I have no feeling around most of the incision and my reconstructed belly button with a hard lump of scar tissue protruding from the left side of my belly. A wonderful side effect of the surgery are the smaller boobs you see clothed on this blog. They had always been way to big for my frame, got in the way for everything, made dressing difficult and generally a pain. You know your boobs are huge when the plastic surgeon gasps when you tell him your bra size. Now, my boobs might be covered in scars, still sore but numb in most spots and no nipples (sorry if that was too much information).
In the end, I am glad I had the surgery. I do not have to live with the wondering of if and when I will get breast cancer and now I will always be there for my kids and family. In March it will be a year from the final surgery and one day the scars will heal.
So why did I tell my story... I just want others out there to know that breast health and breast cancer detection should be taken seriously.
Thanks for reading!