So, why have I chosen the surgery route to manage my BRCA status? I know that many people may think “What?! Are you crazy? You are going to remove perfectly healthy breasts?” And to be perfectly honest that thought crossed my mind before I knew I was BRCA1+. If you don’t have cancer, why would you do something so extreme? Well, there are so many emotions involved in a decision like this one. First, and a reason that has a HUGE impact, is my mom. She had breast cancer in her late 30’s and ovarian cancer at 45. She fought ovarian cancer for 4 ½ years by trying numerous types of chemos, going through multiple surgeries and even trying a bone marrow transplant. But even though it was caught “early” the ovarian cancer eventually took over. Conversely, she was a breast cancer survivor. She had a lumpectomy followed by radiation. So, one might think, okay, so your mom beat her breast cancer why are you worried about that? What about your ovaries? Well, those suckers are coming out as soon as my doctors feel comfortable about taking them out and not causing other problems due to the drastic reduction of hormones, etc. But that will be another topic down the road.
As for the breast cancer, yes, my mother found hers early. However, I have no way to know that I would be fortunate enough to not only find the breast cancer in its early stages, but also have it be a beatable form of breast cancer. Not to mention, if I get breast cancer I will want my breasts removed so I don’t have that constant threat of a reoccurrence. By then I will always have to worry and wonder if they did indeed remove all of the cancerous tissue. Are there some rogue cancer cells that sloughed off into my body as the surgery was being performed? Then of course, I would most likely need chemo and/or radiation on top of the surgery. Sounds like a blast, right? No, not to me. And this may seem like the glass half empty approach, but in general, I’m a pretty positive, optimistic person. This is me being proactive as opposed to reactive. I like being prepared. And knowing that my lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is about 87% I have chosen to reduce my risk to less than that of the normal population, which is about 12%. A wonderful woman who is also in my situation, gave me an example that I think is helpful when trying to understand the percentages. If you are about to board a plane and someone tells you that the plane has up to an 87% chance of crashing-it might not crash at all- but 87% chance it will. Are you going to board that plane?
Now of course I know I could be in that 13% that doesn’t get cancer at all…but I am just not willing to take that risk. I know I could hang on to “the girls” a little longer and still probably not have any problems with breast cancer, but right now is as good a time as any to kick this underlying stress and anxiety. I know I said I was a pretty positive person, but when it comes to cancer, not so much. I worry that I must be missing something when I am doing self-exams. Or, for example, following the few scares during preventative screening mammograms and MRI’s, I worried about if they were sure everything was really was ok. Did they truly understand my high risk or were they just assuming everything was probably ok because I was so young? Sometimes I feel like I am just waiting to get cancer…and that’s not how I want to live my life. I want to actually live my life and not be consumed by fear and worry.
My mom was a fighter. And I honestly am not sure if she would make the same choice as I am, but she might have if she had 1) been given the option and 2) knew it would give her a greater chance of living a longer, healthier life. Even if she would not have chosen this for herself, I am confident she’d support me in the decisions I have made for myself. As the surgery gets closer, I am positive I have made the right decision for me. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous and scared.
Until next time, here’s to choices, decisions and silicone!