My name is Brione.
I made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction (DIEP) in October last year. But unlike some others, I do not know if I have the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene fault. This is because to determine if you have the gene you need to have a living relative that has survived breast or ovarian cancer and that is also willing to be tested. Unfortunately I have neither.
My mother passed away from breast cancer at age 48, she was originally diagnosed at age 40. I was 22 when she died and it rocked my world. I faced a reality of growing up without my mum and it took me a while to comprehend what that meant. As life went on, I got married and had my three beautiful children including two girls.
My cousin and aunty on my mum’s side were diagnosed with breast cancer and then my aunty passed away at 52. I realised this was bigger than we initially thought. I also realised, I wanted to be around for the long haul and see my kids grow up. I wanted to see them get married and hopefully have their own children, something my amazing mother didn’t get to see.
This kicked off an intense research and education process including counselling, reading, interviews, blogs and discussion along with my regular mammograms / ultrasounds.
It can be quite unsettling sitting in the breast centre (cannot use Breastscreen as I am under 40). Starting with 20 women and being one of the last few there having to have further tests due to breast density and family history. During this time my mother in law was diagnosed as well as an aunty on my husbands side. I also saw other close friends fight their own battles with breast cancer and other forms of cancer. It made no sense.
After seeing the Family Cancer Clinic and a geneticist I was advised I was high risk (surprise!) but would have difficulty being tested for the gene as it would likely come back inconclusive. He also realised I had already made the decision and was well informed to understand my options and risks and that the result of a test irrespective of the result wouldn’t alter my decision. I had mixed responses to my choice ranging from drastic, deluded, crazy, brave, sensible, with even some of those closest to me struggling to understand my decision. Angelina Jolie coming public certainly helped people understand but didn’t help with other peoples fear or uncertainty particularly of their own choices.
I don’t consider myself brave. That is for the women who have no choice but to tackle their diagnosis head on and to fight every day. I would use that term to describe my mum, my aunty, my cousin and my friends who fought and continue to fight hard. I look at my decision, and it is my decision, as what was right for me. I had a choice and I understand it may not be for everyone.
The last nine months have been challenging. Due to my wonderful friends and family support, especially my husband who loves me unconditionally, I have gotten to the other side.
What this basically means is unfortunately someone else in my family needs to be diagnosed to find out if the gene fault exists in my family. I hope this never happens but I can also be assured it will not be me.
The new friends I have met throughout my journey through Pink Hope with their strength and determination continue to inspire me with their support and friendship.
I only hope I can provide similar support to those facing their own journeys.