So 2015 has been a whirlwind of emotions, appointments and surgeries but I am very thankful for everything that I have been able to go through this while keeping a positive attitude. To the people who have questioned this whole process to learn about and get a closer perspective on, I wish you all the best and I am here for anything you need! So I wanted to clarify a few things in this post about what has happened so far and what I have to look forward to.
- I am not a BRCA gene carrier.
Only about 5% of breast cancer patients have the BRCA gene. BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 are the two types of genes that you may test positive for. This is one of the first things you should do if you have any question about breast cancer running in your family. My mother was diagnosed in the middle 90’s and when I discussed her diagnosis with my doctor, she stated this testing may not have been available back then so we are unaware if she had BRCA gene or not. My aunt (mom’s sister) did not have the BRCA gene so we would assume mom did not have it either. However, just because you do not have the gene does not mean you will not get breast cancer, as in my aunt and mother’s case. If you have any question as to if you have this gene, it can be as simple as a saliva test to find out. I was able to do the test locally and received results in 2-3 weeks. I was negative for this gene.
- My lifetime chance of obtaining breast cancer was still very high risk even with testing negative for the gene.
You can test your risk from a simple series of questions about your family history, health and lifestyle and by talking with your doctor. You can also go online to https://www.brightpink.org for more information on your risk assessment. This website has so many wonderful events, support teams, and information for early detection/prevention of breast and ovarian cancer. I highly recommend this site.
- You must have an open mind and a positive mind set before making any serious decisions like this. Obviously mastectomy was my choice, but that is not everyone’s choice. Many people I know have been diagnosed with breast cancer and they are not ready to have this surgery. You can still get your regular check ups and mammograms to be proactive! Surgery is not for everyone, but it was the best decision I have ever made. Emotions are real with this surgery and can easily affect you as well. Thankfully, I think that this has made me a happier person overall! Although I am more self conscious about what I wear (which is mostly black, gray or navy) and what the girls look like, I am ready to have my new chest to finally know what size bra to get or what type of shirt looks okay. This will take time to feel comfortable but the rest of my emotions about this are wonderful!!
- This surgery may be covered by insurance. Definitely call them if you have any questions about the gene test and any preventative screening – mammograms, mastectomy, lumpectomy etc. I just hope this piece of it is not a battle for you as mine was, but do not give up – keep on top of it.
- I will no longer have to have a mammogram each year. I will have a MRI every few years instead of smashing my boobs with that dreadful machine because it could potentially bust or damage my implants.
- I have my last reconstructive surgery this coming up Friday. It will be similar to the first surgery by cutting the same incision under my “foobs”. I do not have to have drains with this procedure which is wonderful news! They will remove my temporary saline implants and replace with silicone “permanent” implants that will have to be changed every 10 years or so. I am also having some fat grafting to go along with this surgery to cushion and make the girls look/feel a little more natural and not so rock hard in your face. I still feel awkward hugging someone because I know they are thinking “OMG, those are rock solid.” So true and so sorry lol! I am glad I can laugh and joke about these things now as I am finally used to them but now they are about to change again. Since I chose to have breasts again and not completely remove them I obviously want them to look somewhat normal. Now that my worry of ever obtaining breast cancer is completely gone, I now am anxious for what the end result will look like. I have to say my plastic surgeon has done wonders and I could not be happier with my results so far, so I have high hopes for Friday!
- Everyone has been awesome with the idea of this surgery but you will always have a few stray ones that can make those comments that can be hurtful. I only had a few that said “Oh you are just doing this for new boobs.” As I do not hide my emotions well and could have easily corrected their inconsiderate remarks, I surprisingly held it together and fake laughed it off all while reassuring them that the main goal is to completely be free of breast cancer. I will be proud of my new girls, my new scars, weeks of recovery and all the future surgeries because I am going to be breast cancer free.
- I will always be a huge supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness. As most of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I encourage everyone to help and support your local charities, a friend or family member who has been affected by this cancer and any organization that supports the American Cancer Society. Please also keep in mind as your social media accounts try to bring awareness to this – let’s all be supportive, respectful and mindful of how you encourage awareness. Make a donation, schedule your mammogram, raise money, participate in fundraisers, walks, runs, school events, pink out games, etc. You can make a difference these ways but by posting a make-up less selfie does nothing for anyone.
- After I am done having kids, I am already thinking of removing my ovaries because I am also at a higher risk to obtain ovarian cancer as well. I would gladly remove any body part possible that gives me a high risk to prevent cancer from taking my life as it did my mother’s.
Quick knowledge/facts from http://www.brightpink.org
- 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer
- 1 in 67 women will develop ovarian cancer
- Vitamin A reduces risk for those who have a family history of the disease. Look for carrots, sweet potatoes, dried herbs, and leafy greens.
- Vitamin E has been clinically proven to slow the growth of cancer cells in the ovaries by reducing the production of telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein that can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Fill up on leafy greens such as swiss chard, spinach, and kale, as well as nuts, wheat, and tropical fruits
- Cut back on cocktails. Research shows a 10% increase in breast cancer risk for every 10g of alcohol—that’s one standard drink—consumed on average each day.
- Some women who are at high risk for breast cancer have their breast tissue surgically removed through a prophylactic (or risk-reducing) mastectomy. Studies show you can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by 95%, and you have options for reconstructive surgery afterward. You will also want to consider that you will likely lose normal sensation in the breast, and won’t be able to breastfeed. If you decide to have a risk-reducing mastectomy, you may find these tips helpful. https://www.brightpink.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MastectomyGuide.pdf
If you have any questions about any of the above I would be happy to give more details or help clarify anything I can for you! I hope everyone has a wonderful week and thank you for all of your support. I can only hope this continues to encourage you to be more aware of your options and to be proactive! xoxo, Ashley.
I will be having surgery as a preventative measure because within my life time the probability of me obtaining breast cancer is very high risk. The idea of not having to worry about breast cancer is an absolute relief. As I think of the bigger picture of not having to go through what my momma went through with her breast cancer and being there for my daughter makes me want to have surgery tomorrow. However, I can not get too ahead of myself as there are many risks and options with having a prophylactic double mastectomy. My aunt (my mom’s sister) also was diagnosed with breast cancer. After going through chemotherapy she is in remission and a survivor! Have I mentioned how excited I am about this double mastectomy?
I would have not gained the knowledge and confidence in my decisions without talking to others who have had this surgery. So to all of you who have shared their story on here or any type of media like the Cosmo I read years ago – Thank you!!!! You truly have helped me so much and I think that is all of our goals right? I only hope to inspire others out there as well.
What is prophylactic mastectomy? Prophylactic mastectomy is surgery to remove one or both breasts to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, prophylactic mastectomy in high-risk women may be able to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 90%. The statement above is from http://www.breastcancer.org.
There are many different risk factors that play a part in determining your chance of getting breast cancer. If you are curious in finding these risks as I was, please talk to your doctor as not all numbers are the same for every individual.
After research, talking with my insurance and speaking with my doctors, I knew my decision was final on getting this surgery. I also already had in mind where I was going to go to have this surgery. I made a quick call and a packet arrived a few days later with loads of information on my upcoming appointment. That was very overwhelming as it was finally starting to sink in. As I drove to the same hospital my mom spent the worst of her days, it was tough. I remembered the overpass bridge, the fountain in the lobby, the cafeteria and the elevators which soon after the tears began to fall. Did I mention I do not like to show emotions that portray me as weak? I only let a few tears fall and I was fine. I met with my doctor who will be performing the removal of my breast tissue. She was so comforting and knowledgable, I couldn’t have felt better about our appointment. After we discussed all of the details, numbers, the procedure and risks, a massive weight had been lifted off of me. When she said, “your risk after this procedure would be under 1% of obtaining breast cancer”, I bawled like a baby. I could not stop crying as these were tears of joy and relief.
How could I not get this surgery with that low of a risk? My life will be forever changed as I will not live in fear anymore. When I was younger, I knew I would get breast cancer and was expecting it to happen any day. Well in 36 days that fear will be gone as I am having my prophylactic double mastectomy on June 3rd!!
The surgery I am having is a bilateral nipple sparing double mastectomy with same day reconstruction. Basically one doctor will be removing all of my breast tissue, and my plastic surgeon will come in right after and replace with an implant. I will have a scar at the bottom of my foobs (fake boobs).
If you have boobs, or if you had to get them removed, you are still a beautiful woman inside and out – never forget that!
A lot of women struggle with “losing a part of themselves” (real boobs) as this is a risk factor in this procedure. I can’t say anything yet, as I still have my real ones but as of now I do not have an attachment to them. First off, all I can think about when it comes to my boobs is that one day these things are going to give me cancer. I tend to always expect the worst, so regardless of the outcome, I am still ready to get this surgery done. Honestly, boobs are just boobs and after you have a baby, let’s just say they are not what they used to be, so I will be just fine! Regardless, this is a big concern for everyone who has this surgery, so be sure to talk this through with your doctor.
Recovery will be extremely rough, as I will not be able to lift my arms higher than my waist, open a door, lift more than 5 lbs or really do anything but lay down for the first few weeks. I can only sleep on my back, which is pretty much impossible for me to do. The little things like not being able to put my hair in a pony will drive me nuts. I pray that things go as smoothly as possible with no infection after surgery. Please send prayers for my husband, family and friends as well who will be helping me out during this time. The worst part about this whole process is not being able to pick up my daughter. I will be out for roughly about a month. I will have tubes in my sides for a few weeks to drain the extra fluid from surgery. I will have major bruising but that will clear with time. I will have to go back to have a few outpatient procedures but in a few months it will all be over. =)
Could I die tomorrow in a tragic accident or become diagnosed with a different kind of cancer? Yes, and I assure you I will be strong and fight it through, but it would not be breast cancer that I feared so much. I know you are thinking that cancer is cancer no matter what kind it is but to me it is different. Not many people understand my reasoning , but I do not expect anyone to and that is perfectly okay. Everyone has a story, struggle or fear and I will not judge you on yours as I could not ever put myself in your shoes. Do what you feel is right for you, make yourself happy and just be you. xoxo, Ashley