In 2010, my mom found out that she was positive for the BRCA 1 gene mutation, which means she has a significantly higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer – even more than a “normal” person. Her mom (my grandma), died of breast and ovarian cancer at 44. My mom’s aunts (grandma’s sisters) are both breast cancer survivors.
My mom made the decision to eliminate the source of the problem and got a double mastectomy in Feburary of 2011. In November of 2010, she had her ovaries removed. She decided to get scar revision surgery and have her chest toally flattened out in November of 2011. She originally wanted to go the expanders to implant route, but after some serious complications and infection, she decided against having reconstruction.
If she decided to keep her breasts and ovaries she would have been up to 80% more likely to develop cancer. By having it all removed her chances dramatically decrease. She will still have to undergo surveillance for the rest of her life, but the cancer risks are now very small.
Since my mom is positive for this gene mutation is means my brother, sister and I could also be positive. I made the decision to get tested in April of 2011 and found that I was positive as well.
It was upsetting to get positive test results, but I think I was kind of expecting it. Seeing my mom go through her testing process and surgeries made me better prepared for my own journey with BRCA. I have first hand experience with this thing, so it’s not as if I am going into it blind.
For now, I am choosing surveillance. Lots of women get positive results, and start scheduling surgeries. I do not feel prepared to start thinking about surgery. I feel comfortable with getting MRIs, mammograms and exams for now. Eventually, I will get surgery like my mom did. I know that removing the source of the problem is better than taking my chances with cancer. So in a few years after I have children, I will re-visit surgery options.
The BRCA and breast/ovarian cancer community is very strong and supportive. The outpouring of love and advice I have received over the year with my mom’s surgeries and my positive results, has been so amazing. I am lucky to be a part of such a great group of people. There are many brave men and womenout there who face some really tough decisions. I admire their strength and courage.