My name is Laura and this is my story.
Up until I was about 12 years old, cancer was just a scary thing that adults talked about. But unbeknown to me, my mother was doing everything she too could to shield us from her terrible bouts of breast cancer.
It was right there in our family, my whole life, and, along with my sister, we were soon to be following in the family’s battle against it. Luckily for us, new technology has allowed us to be able to take steps to prevent it, instead of having to simply try and survive it when it hits, like my poor mum had to suffer.
When Mum had her last bout of cancer, back when I was all of 13 years old, she felt that we were old enough to start to understand what she had been going through her whole life. I had to watch her, much to my horror and utter terror, come home after chemotherapy and be violently sick, watch her try and hide it from her friends, help her buy wigs and stood by her while she nervously wore them out in public for the first time. I was terrified, but I only asked one thing of her. I couldn’t bear to see my mother without any hair, so, quietly, she made sure she always kept it covered for me. I feel guilty and ashamed that I asked her to do that, it was simply that I couldn’t bear to see what she would look like without it. She already looked so sick from the chemo, but she was so good about it, she never complained.
When I turned 18, I was given the opportunity to take a blood test to see if I carried the BRCA2 gene fault. As much as I expected it to, it came back positive. I, like my sister, carried the BRCA2 gene fault, which opened up my world to a whole new support system, and to seeing a completely different side of breast cancer.
We went to our ‘high risk clinic’ meetings, sat with older women talking about their experiences. I thought this would have scared me, but due to the way Mum brought us up with it, I already knew there were many options for me to help to prevent it.
Then, when I was 19, my sister booked her operation for her preventative double mastectomy. I believe this was when things really started to get serious – I realised that this was really going to happen. I went with her to some of her preparation appointments, watched her party at her ‘goodbye boobs’ bash, and was there for her when she had her nervous moments. Overall I was proud to see how calm and accepting she was of it all. I always knew that I would be able to watch my sister go through it first, before I had to undertake the same operation, but to be so young to go through it – that takes some guts. And she did get through it. She pulled through it perfectly. Now I’m next.
After watching my sister have the operation, I now can’t wait to have mine! I also feel really compelled to share with women how much they can’t keep turning a blind eye to breast cancer. Some seem to look at it like it is a big demon, waiting to come and get them, and I want to try and show them that there are things that can be done, ways you can help to prevent it!
Under my circumstances, with my family history, it is my own personal decision to have this double mastectomy. My reasons are, firstly, that it brings down my chance of getting breast cancer down to around 4%, similar to that of a male. I can choose when and where I want to have my operation done, unlike the cancer itself which can strike anywhere, anytime.
There is no way that I want to even slightly go through what my mother has had to.
Her, along with my sister, has been such huge inspirations in my life, and has helped me to make this decision.
UPDATE November 2010
It is now 2 weeks until my surgery, and I couldn’t feel more comfortable with my decision and prepared for the surgery! After watching my sister go through this same experience 2 years ago, I lost any doubts I had towards having the surgery myself.
I’m happy that it’s less than 2 weeks until my preventative double mastectomy, and that the sun will soon shine through this big black cloud that I’ve been carrying.
All has gone well leading up to the surgery and everything is on track. I have had my last MRI, and there is only one appointment left with my surgeon before the big day.
I feel empowered and fortunate that I have been able to turn this journey into a positive celebration of life. Thank goodness for the improvement in science that gave me the knowledge to make my choice!
Now all that’s left is to celebrate with my friends and family at my ‘Goodbye Boobs’ Party. Beer, BBQ & Boobs; the perfect mix for a perfect cause!