Here’s the background on me, and why I have decided to go ahead with a preventative double mastectomy and breast reconstruction this week.
I have a strong family history of breast cancer and I was diagnosed with LCIS (lobular carcinoma in situ – see more about this in separate post) which is a marker for increased breast cancer risk in February this year. About a decade ago, when my sister Martha was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at age 36, I underwent genetic testing and decided that if it was found I had a definite genetic defect for breast cancer then I would go ahead with bilateral mastectomy. I didn’t want my family (or me!) to go through the very challenging journey of breast cancer and the resulting treatment if I could avoid it. The testing showed that while my family do not have a defective BRAC gene, we most likely have an unidentified genetic fault that puts us at high risk of breast cancer (as well as Martha, my mum and her sister have both had breast cancer too).
So when I found out that my diagnosis of LCIS, alongside my family history, meant that my breast cancer risk had jumped to over 85% in my lifetime, the decision to go ahead with the mastectomies had already been made by me some time ago.
My surgery will be on August 28 here in Sydney at St Vincent’s hospital. Since the diagnosis, I have been terrified for some of the time and all consumed for the most of the time! I have often felt that I am in shock – it’s like my life is an interesting article I have read in some magazine but I just can’t believe it is about me!
Adding to the complexity of emotions is the fact that we lost our dear Martha to breast cancer just 20 months ago, when she was only 46. This does make for an extra emotional overlay to the whole situation. I had only just felt like I was coming out of the deepest fog of grief to then be hit by this development earlier this year. However, I do feel Martha with me every step of the way. Because I saw her journey with breast cancer up close and personal for over 10 years, my fear of having to go through all of the treatment and surgeries (as well as any further recurrences), made the decision to have the mastectomies quite straightforward. I think if you know what someone experiences with breast cancer then there is nothing you won’t do to avoid it. So I am very thankful for the early warning!
In the meantime, I have had many, many doctor’s consultations and have researched so much online about all of my options. I am confronted by the seriousness of the surgery (see more here) but I know it is the right choice for me, without a shadow of a doubt.
In the midst of all of this, just over six weeks ago we received the shocking, tragic news that another of my sisters, Lou, had passed away suddenly. I actually think my brain has gone into overload at this point, and while I have accepted that Lou has gone, and is now resting up in heaven with Martha, much of my grief for Lou has been set to one side while I get through this next challenge. I know I am going to be okay. My feeling is that my grief for Lou is going to be gentle and subtle – just like Lou.
Losing Martha has taught me many coping skills so I am calling on them – journalling, meditation, exersize to name a few. I know it is going to be challenging but I know I am going to be okay. Actually, forget that – I AM okay! Lou and Martha will be watching over and looking after me for sure. And please do send love, good vibes and prayers that all goes well with my surgery and healing in the next few months. Every little bit helps!