I suggest Julia, from London until you have sat in a room while, after months of waiting and worrying, a geneticist tells you that you are a BRCA gene carrier and your chances of getting cancer are 85% that you maybe keep your mouth shut. Any surgery based decisions are not made hastily as a result of fear......to be 31 years old and opt to have your ovaries & fallopian tubes removed, leaving you unable to have any more children and push you into an early menopause is not something you jump to decide to do out of panic. You go home, you look into your little boys eyes, you thank god you have him and are lucky to be so blessed. And while you look at him you imagine what his life could be like if you get ovarian cancer, the ‘silent’ killer - screening is far from foolproof, will he have to watch you get ill, will he have to watch his mother die, will you miss his birthdays, his graduation, his marriage, your own grandchildren being born??? And when you play all of these thoughts over and over in your head after 6 months of weighing it all up, when you finally decide you want to do all you can to stay by your little mans side and tell the surgeon to take away your ovaries, it is still the hardest decision you have ever made. You will never be able to be a mother again, never have a baby grown inside you, never have the daughter you longed for....but you make the decision because you chose to be here for the future of your gorgeous son.
And then it comes to your breasts....after 16 months of regular check ups, MRI’s, mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds, standing in thin cotton robes having your chest measured, examined, prodded, poked and stared at, when you have sat opposite the surgeon as he explains your choices of surgeries....mastectomies, reconstruction, expanders, where he can remove fat from to recreate your new breasts - your back, your thighs, your stomach....when he gets out the box containing all the different types of implant, when he tells you he will need to use a mesh that might come from pig or bovine, when you are told you need to decide whether to keep your nipples or not, when he tells you to be prepared that they will look different, they will feel different, they will have pretty much no sensation in them, and he explains that recovery (depending on choices of surgery) could be up to three months, during which time you probably wont even be able to pick up your son, or do even the most basic of tasks un-aided..........so you ask about the alternative, no surgery. Screening, check ups. If a lump is discovered they act fast....but given your age and the gene it is likely to be a more aggressive form of cancer requiring chemo, radiotherapy, surgery and once more you think of your little boy, you think of what if....what if despite all that they don’t catch it early enough.....and with that thought pushing you on you tell the surgeon ‘take my breasts’.
BRCA1 or 2 is not a death sentence and neither I or the many carriers within my family think that way. But having seen my gorgeous, brave, amazing aunt battle with both ovarian and breast cancer for many years, I know we all see her face when we make our decisions. Because I know if she had been given the choice, if she had known before she got ill, she would of let them take whatever they needed to, to keep her with her family. And I will bloody well do the same.
So Julia from London let me tell you that us BRCA gene carriers do not make any decisions based on fear but instead with courage, determination and dignity. With strength and bravery we opt to stare cancer in the face and do all we can to stick 2-fingers up at it. And in 3 months time when I have both my breasts removed and then reconstructed using tissue from my back, and when I am left with scars and look different, I will NOT feel mutilated. I will wear my scars with pride because I will know I did everything in my power to kick BRCA1’s sorry arse.
So in future keep your hurtful, ignorant comments to yourself!!!!!
.....end rant xxx