My name is Elsa and this is my story.
My darling mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 43. I was studying nursing at uni and was 19 years old. After a lumpectomy and treatment mum was better, or so we thought. The following year she developed the disease again and then again the following year. Mum ended up with bilateral mastectomies with latisimus dorsi reconstructions. Three primary breast cancers in three years. It was then that mum was tested for the gene fault and was diagnosed with a BRCA1 gene mutation, the day she was diagnosed with the gene mutation she had her ovaries removed.
During mum’s battle with breast cancer she lost her sister to the disease. After some research it was obvious breast cancer had affected other family members.
My twin sister, brother and myself all got tested the following year and all three of us tested positive to for the BRCA1 mutation. The news was very confronting for our whole family. We were still so young and mum recommended that we wait until we had children and experienced breastfeeding before considering surgery. After much discussion with the family and our breast surgeon we decided surveillance was our best option at this stage. So for the following nine years we had regular mammograms, ultrasounds and MRI’s. Every year when we had the tests was a stressful time, what if they found cancer this year? Although I didn’t constantly think about having the gene mutation it was always in the back of my mind.
At 26 I met my now husband Matt and we had our first baby girl Lucy in 2012 and our second baby girl, Sophie in 2013. After the birth of Sophie I had an overwhelming gut feeling that I needed to have preventative surgery. I always thought we would have three babies then have the surgery but this gut feeling I had was so strong and I felt I didn’t have time to finish breastfeeding Sophie nevermind have a third baby and breastfeed that baby also. This is when I booked in to see a plastic surgeon. About a year earlier I had heard about Pink Hope and was so comforted to join in the community and feel supported, knowing there were so many other people who were going through the same thing. I felt comfortable asking questions and really relied on the feedback I got from others.
I had my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy late 2013. My family travelled from Darwin to Melbourne where I chose to have surgery, (as that is where my breast surgeon who I have been seeing for nine years works), my parents and brother and sister and their families also travelled to Melbourne for support. I had immediate reconstruction with implants under the pectorial muscle and the use of a Flex HD graft, which is a new product in Australia. All is going well and I have absolutely no regrets. It was a decision that was hard to make and for me the build up to the surgery with the stress and anxiety was worse than the actual surgery as it is a huge life decision and a massive change but a decision I am so glad I have made.
I would not have been able to do it without the ongoing support of my loving family and friends.