My family is plagued with cancer – aunts, grandparents, cousins… our history is rife. Breast, ovarian and liver cancer are the common denominator, unfairly cutting their lives short. Women still had so much more love and life to live.
When I lost my aunt just a few short years ago, I finally decided I could not leave my future to uncertainty; one where I wasted energy on simply hoping I would not follow in the footsteps of the many incredible women in my family, fighting an aggressive cancer diagnosis before I even had the chance to start a family of my own.
With the support and guidance of my family and best friend, I made the decision to undergo genetic testing having been told by family members that a genetic mutation commonly known as “The Angelina Jolie” gene, or BRCA, was likely the cause of these deadly cancer diagnoses.
Deep down within me, I always had a niggling that I too would be a carrier. My suspicions were confirmed following a long six weeks wait for the results of my blood test, when I was told I did in fact carry the BRCA1 gene mutation. Of course, it brings with it an 80% lifetime risk of breast cancer and a 60% lifetime risk of ovarian cancer.
In instances like this, it’s a fight or flight moment; shutting down from the world…not wanting to deal with the reality that the future is almost certainly going to be one of cancer. I had the urge to withdraw and put it into the ‘I’ll deal with it later’ basket.
At age 29, I felt that time wasn’t on my side and that a future free of fear was more important than the immediate satisfaction of compartmentalising and trying to push on with life as though everything were fine.
So brushing fear aside, I decided that with my diagnosis came an opportunity no one in my family before me had had. A chance and a choice to change my future and that of my future family.
I quickly booked an appointment to the women’s health clinic at the Royal Adelaide hospital, attending various, sometimes overwhelming appointments, information sessions to get as educated and informed as I could about what this risk meant and how I could best manage my future. And while high-risk screening managed to provide some relief to my angst of a cancer diagnosis, it did not completely appease me, and so I started to explore preventative options.
It was here I met with my breast and plastic surgeon to discuss what a double mastectomy and reconstruction would look like.
And it was during this time that I stumbled across the work of Pink Hope. At this point on my journey, they were exactly what I needed, at the exactly the time in my journey when I needed the most support.
In 2017, I signed the paperwork for my prophylactic double mastectomy. A long 18 months ensured as I waited my turn on the operating list, and finally in December 2018 I had my mastectomy with a tissue implant to stretch the skin, before a further surgery to exchange to an implant. In November 2019 I had my exchange to implant surgery.
I found the recovery much easier this time round. I’m absolutely 100% happy with the outcome. To me they are perfect and for the first in a long time I feel complete, I’m thankful and forever grateful I had the opportunity to have this option available to me. I now only must decide on nipple recon or tattooed nipples something I plenty of time to think about.
Despite what many women may tell you; the strangeness of going into surgery when you are in fact a perfectly healthy woman, is totally removed by the empowerment that the day brought. I had made the decision, I had taken the step, and I had put my health in my own hands, and I was going to win.
The Pink Hope community’s support has been amazing, I have made lifelong friends and will continue support women like myself who are a little ‘faulty’ but most of all beautiful, strong and courageous. this year I co-hosted a She shares event in November, and I look forward to supporting Pink Hope in the future in hosting another she shares event in 2020 and planning a fundraising event in 2020.
In a few years I will also look to remove my ovaries, a necessary step to prevent a future ovarian risk. But in the meantime, and as I hold out for Mr Right, I have started exploring PGD via IVF as a way to ensure that my future children will not face the same burden that my family and I have had to face; one that is full of hope and health and stopping the gene with me.
Feel Empowered with your choice – it’s your own. This journey has made me stronger and I feel more empowered to take charge of my life.
Be your own kind of Beautiful!
Live every moment,
Laugh every day,
Love beyond words!
If you’re facing the same challenges as Belle and need some extra support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!