My name is Aimee. My story begins like so many in the Pink Hope community.
I am the daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter and niece of brave and strong women who have been taken by breast and ovarian cancer, none of which ever made it beyond 50 years of age.
We were among the first families to have the BRCA genetic testing in Australia in 1995 and at this time it was largely unknown what we should do with the information. Two out of three of my aunts came back BRCA1 positive as well as three cousins. My aunt’s who had already had children immediately underwent bilateral mastectomy, radical hysterectomies with removal of the ovaries. The youngest sister at 25 believed she had time on her hands. She was newly married and had so much to live for and achieve. She didn’t make it to her 30 birthday – taken by aggressive breast cancer within 9 months.
Cancer had been part of my life since I was 5, chemo suites and doctors rooms had always been a part of my journey. So when it was my 18th birthday the letters began arriving from the genetic clinic. Some letters went unopened, whilst others were put in the too hard basket. Either way I was living life care free and cancer was not going to ruin that.
A few years passed and I found myself married and a surgical breast nurse and at 24 had so much more to lose.
I spent my days caring for women who were beginning their fight against breast cancer day in and day out. One uneventful night duty at 4 am my world came crashing down when I found a lump in my left breast. My mind went in to over drive – How could I have been so dumb? Why had I not done something earlier? Here I was every day telling women to ensure they continue regular breast checks but neglected to do as I preached.
By 9 am that morning I found myself in ultrasound/ followed by a breast MRI and 3 pm breast surgeon. Having now been awake for 32 hours I felt that my life was over. Some would say a little over dramatic but when every woman in my life had been taken by this disease it felt like there was no other option. I can thankfully say that the lump was a cyst but more than anything it was my wake-up call!
A week later I sat there with my husband and father and it was my turn to learn my genetic fate. Three blood tests and a six week wait after this I was delivered the news that deep down I always knew – I was BRCA1 positive. For me there was no other option then to have a bilateral mastectomy and I wanted it now.
To me bilateral mastectomy wasn’t a dirty word, it was a life line. Within two months I had a Bye-Bye Boobie Party, and on the 28th Feb 2013 I underwent a skin sparing nipple sacrificing bilateral mastectomy with insertion of bilateral expanders. I had the surgery in the hospital I work at and was cared for in the ward that I nurse in and for some this was hard to comprehend but for me I trust my colleagues with my life and knew that if I was showed half the love and support that they show to all the other patients I was in good hands. My stay in hospital included 4 drains, nerve damage and 12 days as an inpatient but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I now have reduced me risk of breast cancer to 0.1%, I have family and friends who supported me, held my hand and learnt from my journey but more so I will be there amongst their amazing company.
My journey is not yet over with my breast reconstruction booked for the 2nd of August 2013 and more to come.
The continual question is whether or not to go ahead with IVF genetic testing in the future. What we can say with certainty is that I have a future. I have love, travel, adventure, fun and years of happiness to look forward too.
So for those going through the tough times and having to make the hard decision being BRCA positive is not a death sentence, it’s not even a life sentence it’s an opportunity for you to grab life with both hands and take control unlike anyone else can!!!