This month is one that I both celebrate and mourn for quite a few reasons – it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it always makes me think about my mom, my grandma and my great grandma. It also makes me think about my own life and how we can all live in a way that feels good to our soul, that makes us feel free, and that puts a smile on our face. Drive with the windows down, feel the breeze on your skin, moo at the the cows. This month, we celebrate some of the most important women in my family.
My mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer at 26 years old which is super rare. She battled this ugly disease for eleven years before ultimately passing away at age 37. My grandma didn’t know that later she would be diagnosed with breast cancer during testing they performed at the same time as my mom. On top of that, my great grandmother was also diagnosed with breast cancer and ultimately beat it – she is a survivor praise God.
As for me, I have always stayed in touch with my breast cancer oncologist from home and we knew I needed to get the genetic testing done since breast cancer ran deep in my family’s history. At age 20, I decided to get the testing done – it came back positive for carrying the BRCA2 gene. This gene provides instructions for making a protein that repairs damaged DNA. People who inherit the harmful variants have increased risk of mostly breast and ovarian cancers (but also a few others). This put so much weight on my shoulders and it was such a stressful time in my life. I had to go into my doctor every 6 months and if there was even the tiniest bit of mutation, I was headed in for ultrasounds or other testing which was scary in every sense of the word. I am still so thankful for those doctors watching over me so closely.
My Breast Oncologist advised me to be done having kids by age 35 so we could start taking preventative measures; when I was done having my girls at 33, we knew it was time. The risk was getting higher the older I got, and my husband and I knew time wasn’t on my side. I began prophylactic surgeries and started with a total hysterectomy – as I mentioned a bit earlier having the BRCA2 gene increases your risk of ovarian cancer as well, so I wanted to be sure and eliminate this high hormone producing part of my body. After that, I went in and had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Was it hard? Yes absolutely, but what would be much harder would be going through what I did watching my mom. I can’t imagine my kids having to go through what I did, with me. It was scary yes, but it was so worth it, and I am so thankful to have the ability to take these preventative measures.
Before my surgeries, I had an 84% chance of getting cancer – now, I have a 2% chance of getting cancer. The weight feels light now, it’s been lifted off my shoulders and I can breathe easy. I can roll the window down and feel the breeze on my skin and moo at the cows.
My mom is still very much alive. She dedicated the last few months of her life to scientific research and allowed studies to be done. She participated in different treatments that were still under study because nothing else was working. She had a special place in moving science forward and I am so thankful for her and the life she lived. Now, I get to live through her and because of her and I am forever grateful. Here’s to you, mom.