Life, love and loss …


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!

8 responses to “Life, love and loss …

  1. Suzie Boyd

    Sarah, I think you are doing the right thing, prevention is better than cure. I know you will be strong enough to handle this and having good health is the most important thing. My thoughts will be with you on Wednesday. All my love. Suzie Boyd xxx


  2. Bec Armstrong

    Well done my brave sister Sarah
    – we are with you all the way.
    So much love to you Bec xx


  3. Paula Bailey

    Darling, darling Sare,loving you lots and holding your hand, love Popsy.xxxxxxooooo


  4. Thanks girls for all of your loving encouragement – it all helps! I’ll have you all, and Martha and Lou by my side on Wednesday. I will be fine.
    lots of love


  5. Darling Sarah, you will be fine, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that you have to be brave. Actually, I think the word is courageous, when you are frightened by still go forward. Wishing you all the best for these next few days and look forward to making you a cup of tea, in peaceful spring sunshine, on the other side.

    lots of love from our family to yours.


  6. Thanks lovely Anna – yes, we will have a nice cup of tea or ten, or perhaps a G&T out on the back deck in the sunshine. I will deserve it by the time I feel up for it! Thanks for all of your love. It is nice to know you think I am courageous (but really, what choice does one have??! There’s only so much crying you can do, and then you have to get on with it! Please be assured that there are many more tears to come. I’m not that brave! … Another thing I now have in common with Martha (& you!) – all good criers. “Go the criers!” says Martha, “better out than in!”
    lots of love


  7. Dearesst Sarah,
    So beautiful of you to share.. and surrounded by these bright flowers and butterflies I’m thinking of you, sending a warm hug. Bodaciousness and Blessings for your journey. I’m so sorry to hear in the midst of all of this you have lost another sister, just. too. sad. I don’t have many words.. but you know.. if you are in the neighbourhood, you are always welcome to come and have some tea, and an ear to share. love Denise xxx


    • Hello lovely Denise – so good to hear from you.
      Yes I know it is all beyond words, but you do say just the right thing. As it happens I will be in your neighbourhood in early December to celebrate all things Martha and Lou (Martha’s 2 year anniversary is Dec 7). And – bonus! – Louise will be joining me for a few days so yes, we are certainly up for a cup of tea and sharing with you. We will be in touch!
      Sending much love to you


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