When Jessica learned at age 34 that she was positive for a gene linked to an increased lifetime risk for developing breast cancer, she began to research having a prophylactic (preventive) bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction. She started chronicling her experience researching options and preparing for surgery on her blog, My Decision to Have a Mastectomy. Here, the now-38-year-old shares her story.
Back in 2015, I was at a check-up with my OB/GYN when she asked me if I wanted to take the BRCA genetic test to determine my risk for developing cancer. I was fairly certain how the results would turn out since breast cancer runs in my family. My maternal grandmother had it twice and is alive today. But my aunt was diagnosed at 39 and passed at 45. I took the test and the office asked me to come in to discuss the results (never a good sign.) There it was, in bright bold red, science confirming my worst fears: Clinically Significant Mutation Identified.
When I went in for a mammogram, I had a panic attack. At a CT scan, not even Valium could calm me down. And worse, I’d be sound asleep and wake up having a panic attack. This would happen once every few months. To know there were cells in my body sitting dormant was terrifying and I felt like I was living my life waiting for them to wreak havoc on my body.
When I found a mass on my breast in October 2017, I thought that was it. I thought cancer finally got me. Thankfully it was just a cyst but it rattled me. I was anxious, depressed and had no peace of mind. So I decided to look into other prevention measures. I started doing research on getting a bilateral mastectomy. Despite people saying I was “too young,” I kept thinking of my aunt who got diagnosed at 39 and I was getting closer to her age. By January 2019 by mind was made up and I met with breast surgeon Dr. Kelly Martinez for a consultation. That’s when I was referred to Dr. Christine Fisher for breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
I liked Dr. Fisher immediately. She made me feel comfortable, safe and even excited about a new future with new breasts. One thing I appreciated was that she knew my records before I went in, so I didn’t have to retell my sad family history. I knew I was in good hands. In the weeks since, the staff has been incredible and so accommodating. They’re responsive to every inquiry while being professional and personal.
I know how lucky I am that I get to have some fun with my decision while other women are not as fortunate. So I asked my friends to throw me a “Booby Shower” just over a week before my surgery. This is my first time to ever have surgery and there are so many unknowns – I wanted to have one big hurrah before everything changes. I always try to approach things that scare me with an open mind and a sense of humor so a themed-party made sense. While I’m scared, I don’t want to be sad. I submitted a story to Buzzfeed about the party so I hope you read more about it.
My surgery is scheduled for April 10. I have a blog that I’m using to update my friends. I’ll be writing about my recovery and this new chapter of my life with new breasts. If anything, I hope my story encourages you to talk to your doctor about genetic testing.
This blog was guest written by breast reconstruction patient Jessica. You can follow her blog to read more about her story.
Christine Fisher MD