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.
So it has been 3 days since I underwent my nipple sparring skin sparring prophylactic double mastectomy and I will have to say I am doing very good with it all. Any kind of surgery is hard to recover from and challenging but I definitely thought it would be way worse. The hardest part was sitting up out of the bed. Now on day 3, I can sit up on my own, do most of my daily normal activities but I still can not lift my arms higher than my shoulders. Thankfully my hubs is strong and can lift me up when I need help. He has been a wonderful nurse. Surgery only took about three hours, which I was surprised it wasn’t longer. I went to the hospital early Wednesday morning. I was the first patient scheduled for surgery that day. After the IV was in and I was all prepped to go back to surgery, I was ridiculously calm. They wheeled me back to the operating room that was ice cold and it was lit up with huge bright lights. They also had dance music blaring in the room. I said, “Oh my gosh, I love how cold it is in here and that it is a dance party in here!” The anesthesiologist came in told me to take 15 breathes and I was out after the first breathe. Speaking of being put under, when I was a little girl I had to have my tonsils removed. All I remember about that surgery was this old lady that was a nurse was shaking me, and yelling at me saying I wasn’t being a good girl. I guess I didn’t let her say that too much longer because I flailed my arm over and accidentally hit her. Ever since then I literally have had the worst trouble waking up. It is not intentional, I just think that mean old lady made me that way. So I warned my anesthesiologist before I went back that I may have trouble waking up. Sure enough I did, and he said he had to put me back out because of it. Haha … Sorry! My expanders only have about 100cc of saline in them so they are small right now. I have 4 drains in, 2 on each side, and everything I have heard about these things being annoying is so true. Hopefully next week at my follow up appointment, I will be able to get a few or all of them taken out. The doctors will put more saline in my expanders over the next few appointments. I do not have any bruising right now, and the incision site looks great. When I woke up from surgery, I remember tears fell down as I was so relieved. It is finally over and the worry/fear is gone! The nurse asked me that morning how I was feeling. I said I’m great and excited, then she got a puzzled look on her face. “We don’t hear that often”. When my doctor came in, the nurse said “Ashley is excited and ready”, my doctor said “It is rare but I know why she is ready for this.” Someone understands why, finally!! My doctors were phenomenal! They said everything went great and that I would get results back from my tissue in about a week to see if there was any concern or cancer cells in the tissue. I do not regret this decision one bit, I am very glad I got this surgery. This was the best decision for me and my life. In being proactive, you don’t have to go to this extreme as I did, but just make sure you do your self breast exams, mammograms and yearly check ups. xoxo, Ashley