We are honored and touched to bring you a guest post from Renee, whose life is changing because of four letters and a number: BRCA1 mutation. Read her story and join us in supporting her in thoughts and prayers.
I’m a 29 year old mother of two beautiful young girls. We’re your typical family with young children spending our weekends playing at the parks or going to the zoo, dealing with potty training a two year old, disappearing naptimes for a three almost four year old, and just trying to keep the peace between two little girls who both want to dress up in the one Cinderella dress we own. We’ve been particularly busy lately though preparing. I’ve stocked up the pantry, prepped frozen meals, created a detailed itinerary, and read as many children’s books on the topic as possible. Why, you’re probably wondering? Next week at this time, I’ll be having a double mastectomy when I do not have breast cancer.
Six years ago, I took a test for what is called the BRCA genetic mutation, which is often referred to as the breast cancer gene. I tested positive. I was told that I had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Over the following years, I immersed myself in information. I met with doctors, specialists, and naturalists. I read everything I could get my hands on about cancer. Whether it was about book about healthy diet for the prevention of cancer, an article about new discoveries for detection, or personal stories on message boards or blogs about treatment, I read it all.
Working with a group of expert doctors, we created a course of action. I was going to do everything possible to make sure that cancer would never grow in me. I dramatically changed my lifestyle. I decreased my BMI, breastfed my babies, incorporated more exercise into my daily routine, added more healthy vegetables, severely limited alcohol, added specific vitamins, and avoided particular chemicals. My doctors have watched me so closely for cancer growth doing routine and supplementary screenings 15 years earlier and twice as often. Even if after all of these lifestyle changes, if cancer did begin to grow in me, we would catch it so early that it would never be as devastating as it was for so many other members of my family.
That plan sounded great in theory, in actual practice, it was a lot harder. Juggling appointments for surveillance every four months in an already busy family schedule, the anxiety of wondering “Will today be the day that they say something’s not right,” the wait for test results all began to feel like a heavy burden. Was I really going to sit and wait for cancer to start forming, hoping that we’ll be able to catch it soon enough? This past summer our extremely large extended family came together to celebrate the marriage of my cousin. I stood there in the church and watched her as such a beautiful bride on such a beautiful day full of love. However, throughout the day my thoughts just kept coming back to what was missing…her mom. At four years old, my cousin lost her mom to her battle with metastatic breast cancer. My aunt was just 31 years old when she was diagnosed. She was fighting cancer the entire time her daughter was alive. She would have done anything to be there with her daughter on that day.
I want to be there for my girls. I want to be at their graduations, weddings, and more. That day I decided that I needed to do more. I was not going to sit around waiting to find cancer. I have the power to make sure that I will be there for them; cancer will not take me away. It’s more drastic than those lifestyle changes I had been trying, but it’s something I have to do to know that I tried my very hardest. To do this, I need to get rid of the tissue where cancer can grow.
Next week, on February 27th, I will be removing my breast tissue and reconstructing it with a safer alternative in a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. I will enter the hospital with an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. I will leave with less than 10% chance. I will also leave knowing that I did everything within my power to make sure that cancer will not take me away from my family.
You can read more from Renee and follow her progress and recovery at her blog, Staying Positive: BRCA Positive