My name is Jaimee and this is my story.
I am 26 and in 2018, about a year ago now, I found out about the BRCA1 gene mutation. I also learnt that I had the potential to be a carrier.
Growing up I was aware of my families strong history of cancer. My auntie died at 30 of breast cancer and my uncle and grandfather also died young from cancer.
Two years ago our cancer history really hit home when my mum was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. 5 years previously she was tested for the BRCA gene and the results came back inconclusive. Although she is a cancer nurse, she still managed to misunderstand this to mean negative. She was re-tested after her diagnosis and came back positive to BRCA1. This is when she broke the news to us and to our extended family that we had a 50/50 chance of also carrying this gene.
I was 25 at this stage and felt incredibly grateful to have an opportunity to take charge of my own life and not wait around for cancer to strike.
In hindsight I don’t think I took any if it seriously enough, I got tested immediately, received my diagnosis and immediately started seeing surgeons for consults. I had public and private doctor meetings but ultimately decided to go private as I wanted to move along with my life as quickly as possible. I chose to get a breast reduction followed by a double mastectomy, direct to implant. They call this the ‘one and done’ method as it doesn’t seem to be as common as the expanders or tissue implant options.
I booked everything in, my friends threw me a boob-voyage party and I was off on my way!
Unfortunately I had complications with wound healing after this surgery. After 5 weeks of doing everything we could, one day my implants poked through my skin I had to get them explanted. Up until then, I had not prepared myself for being flat. My mantra had been ‘its fine, I’ll go in with boobs and come out with boobs, people get fake boobs all the time’.
Having less than 24 hours to adjust to my new reality, knowing that I was going to be flat, really obviously flat was very traumatic for me. I was completely gutted and I couldn’t process that I’d done all the right things and still my body failed me.
Three months of being flat turned out to be some of the most fun and interesting months of my life.
I felt freed and liberated. I felt just as sexual and feminine as before if not even more so. I felt so powerful with how I looked I really felt it changed me to the core.
Three weeks ago, February 2019, I had my 4th surgery to insert my expanders which will be swapped out for implants in a few months.
People often ask me why I’m reconstructing if I loved being flat so much and I struggle to explain that even to myself. I think a big part of my choice to reconstruct comes from a planned trajectory in my mind rather than yearning to have boobs again. This has now been a year of my life, I’ve deferred my psychology degree, worked less and relied on help from family, friends and Centrelink far more than I am comfortable with.
This year has shown me how strong and powerful I am, it has separated my body and mind. I know have a stronger connection with myself because of all that I have been through. It has strengthened the bonds with my friends and family.
I have learnt to be more vulnerable and have found new levels of gratefulness and respect for everyone who surrounds me. I am still recovering and I have my next surgery coming up, but I feel so optimistic about my future and confident that I’ve done my best to beat cancer before it beat me.