In the real world, most 18 year old’s spend their time focusing on things like high school exams, going out with friends, finally being able to drink. For me, 18 was the time when blood tests confirmed I carried a strong BRCA2 gene, and instead, I was starting the process of deciding to have my breasts surgically removed.
Scary, you ask? Yes of course, but I grew up in a family where I had to watch my own mother go through breast cancer, not once, but multiple times. Five times throughout her life my mother has had to hear those horrible words, ‘You have cancer’. Five times she has had to go through the process of chemo, losing her hair, radiation and multiple surgeries. If that wasn’t a motivating factor to try and change my own fate then I don’t know what else could!
Having the ‘cancer cloud’ on your shoulders at that age, or any age for that matter, is never a pleasant feeling, but for me, I personally decided to take a different road to fear.
While every path is unique and individual, I chose to embrace this opportunity and can truly say it has been one of the most positive, empowering journeys I have ever taken!
I threw myself a ‘goodbye boobs’ party, I treated myself to professional ‘pre-surgery’ photography, I threw out every bra I owned and told everyone I knew just what I was deciding to do. There’s no point hiding from it, right?
So, at age 22, during a time when most women are still trying to find their identity, and quite often link body image to their own inner self image, I underwent a prophylactic nipple-sparing mastectomy with reconstruction.
Nothing could have prepared me for the feeling of utter relief and joy, which I experienced the moment I woke up from surgery and knew that the cancer cloud had finally been lifted!
The result? I couldn’t be happier! Yes I have scars, but I’m cool with that, they are a reminder of the path I have chosen to walk.
In terms of dealing with post-surgery dating, I think of it like this; Imagine you meet the perfect man, and you find out that during his life he’s had surgery that’s left him with some sort of chest/abdominal scarring, or no nipples – you would never walk away from him based on that. So don’t expect or accept that for yourself!
If you do happen to come across someone superficial enough to dismiss you because of this, then let them go! They are not remotely worth your time and they were probably never going to be good enough for you in the first place. In fact, I found during my dating years that it added a level of intrigue and curiosity from men – an openness to learn and support me even after I had completed my surgical journey.
In my experience, most men navigate based off you – if you’re relaxed about it all, then they will be too.
Your perfect man will love every part of you, scars and all.
And these guys DO I exist, I promise you! I was quite young and single when I had my surgery but I met my husband a few years later and never once has he faltered with the whole surgery or BRCA2 gene thing. In fact, after many months of dating, I actually had to sit him down and explain the journey I had been through. His response? “Oh right, I thought you might have had something done.”
Ultimately, my family has always taken the approach to be informed and make the choice that is best for you. It’s not the same for everyone, and that’s okay! But trust yourself and your instincts, do your research and there’s every chance you’ll feel just as empowered as I do.
I am so thankful for Pink Hope for creating a community that is filled with the best support you could ever ask for!
Just remember, you got this and we will be here for you every step of the way.