Wednesday, March 31, 2010

To Cut or Not to Cut?

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!


  1. Okay, so that got the tears flowing. You've been so strong and positive through this process. Knowing your love for your family, I have never questioned, but rather only supported this decision. We love you so much and I personally, am so proud of you for the steps you have taken to truly be proactive about this. Working at Northland Hospice, seeing what patients go through once its too late, and knowing some never took the time to be proactive, makes me so thankful you have done all that you have done.

    I will always be here for you every step of the way, as an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a heart to love you! In-law holds no meaning to are my sister, through and through.

    I love you Tracy!

  2. My friend, Jules, sent me the link to your site. My mom is both a breast and ovarian cancer survivor. She is BRCA 2 and MEN 1. She took your route with breast cancer. They caught it early and she had an elective double mastectomy. She's been through a lot. I have and my sister has not been tested. For me it was, head in the sand, lalalala. But, also, a what if what if the insurance companies somehow deem it pre existing even with laws in effect to protect against that very thing. Sorry to write a novel. But thanks. I will be following your journey if you don't mind. It will probably help me make some tough choices sooner than later.

  3. Thank you so much Jamie! Of course in-law means nothing to me either. I really appreciate all of your support and love! I love you!

    Thank you so much for your comments. I am so sorry for what you and your family have been through. Your mom has had to endure a lot, what a strong woman! I totally understand how you have put your head in the sand. It is not easy to make any of the choices we have to make when it comes to our genetic I've heard many others say, none of our choices are really good choices, they all kinda stink. However, there are also no right or wrong decisions because what is right for one person isn't necessarily right for someone else. You just have to do what is best for you and your family and that's most important. I really appreciate you wanting to follow my journey...just helping one person makes sharing all of this totally worth it! Please feel free to leave me comments and ask questions whenever you have any. Best wishes on your own journey! Take care! :)