Three Years Ago I Decided I Wasn’t Going to Let Cancer Win
My doctor looked me in the eye and told me "It is no longer a question of IF you will get breast cancer, it's WHEN."
I was holding my baby in my arms, my fifth child, and had just told my doctor about my mother's recent breast cancer diagnosis. When this was added to my older sister's breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 38 and an aunt with breast cancer, there was no denying what my future held.
What followed was months of doctors appointments, including meeting with a cancer risk and reduction specialist in Denver, CO.
My goal was to be here to watch my five children grow up, and we decided the best way to achieve this was for me to undergo a preventive mastectomy.
A preventive mastectomy is a mastectomy done before a cancer diagnosis. Making the choice to have this procedure took my risk of getting breast cancer from over 40% to 2%.
Deciding to have this series of surgeries (if you choose to have reconstruction it is three surgeries over the course of a year) was terrifying. It meant that for three weeks at a time after each surgery I would be unable to use my arms. No driving, no picking up my children, no cooking...no cleaning.
My husband and I spent months figuring out how to take care of our family of seven through this hard time.
What made it harder was the fact that I couldn't find ANYTHING online about what this process would be like for a young mother.
How do you prepare your children?
Will the random firey pain ever stop?
How long before I can exercise again?
Is it true that I won't have any feeling in my chest?
We were humbled by all the help that family, friends and church members gave us. From helping care for our children to dropping off meals or simply showing up for an hour and keeping me company as I healed, we were grateful beyond measure.
Yet, I felt so alone for so much of my journey, and my husband didn't have anything to prepare him for the challenges. He had to empty my wound drains, miss days of work to care for me or take me to doctors appointments, and deal with both my emotions and his. He was the one waiting alone in a surgical center while his wife, the mother of his children, underwent 8 plus hours of surgery.
I shared week by week every part of my journey...including pictures.
Let's be honest here. The question every woman really wants to know is "Will I look normal?"
A mastectomy is an amputation. The reconstruction process has many steps and some of them are pretty horrific to look at. For women to see the process beginning to end, can give them the power to make the best choice for themselves and their families.
Three years ago I threw the first punch in my fight with Cancer.
I want to let other women know that they can do the same.
You don't have to live in fear.
You don't have to spend the weeks after your mammogram distracted and terrified waiting for bad news.
If you want to learn more about my journey you can follow the links below.
NOTE: Please be aware that there are graphic photos within some of the links below.