My name is Steph and I am an Early Childhood Teacher in Geraldton Western Australia.
I am here to share my story and help other woman like myself after receiving a huge amount of support from friends and family far and wide. It will be a roller coaster, as I accept two missing parts of my body, I also begin to accept two new parts of me. A mental journey on its own, but with everyone around me I will do it!
Triggers… Smells, objects, sounds or even tastes that bring about memories from ones past. These can be happy, traumatic or sad memories from events that have occurred. My trigger… Pancakes and spatulas (egg flips). Why??? Let me share the moment that changed my life for ever… Eggs, flour, sugar, milk the ingredients to make pancakes, after school one afternoon like many days I would go to my best friends until mum would finish work. What do 11 year old girls cook? Pancakes… The front door opened as I just poured some batter into the hot pan. Mum, gee time flies… However, she was not my happy and energetic mum. These were the words that changed my view on life, made me question so many aspects of the things that I thought I knew. “Steph, I have breast cancer”, the words that tore my heart out. Tears, anger and madness are what I remember feeling. Mum’s mother passed away from breast cancer at age 40, it was a part of our family. Our fingerprint.
To an 11 year old cancer, is death. How was I to know mum could fight this almighty battle ahead of her. But she did, she is the strongest person I know and has inspired every choice I have made in my 26 year life. She fought, she fought hard and was not going to let the cancer defeat her. Years of operations, chemotherapy, physiotherapy and she still managed to give me the best childhood, home life and love a girl could wish for. Mum and I are close, we always have been, part of being an only child, and also us living together for 20 years.
So how do these triggers of this event affect me? The smell of pancakes, holding a spatula brings back those words that I heard so many years before. Not just sad memories, but also happy, I am happy I still have my mum as my best friend.
12 years on I decided it was time to face some choices. Mum had participated in some genetic research, which found she carried the faulty BRCA2 gene. Mum’s four siblings were also tested and fortunately none were carriers of the gene fault. Which led to me. Mum’s only child. In November 2011 before I travelled to Europe I saw genetic counsellors and discussed what genetic testing meant for me. Weeks later I did the blood test and then left for Europe.
April 2012, I saw genetic counsellors with mum and found out that I too was positive for the faulty BRCA2 gene! This was bitter sweet, relief, heart break, anxiousness and pain all rolled into one. I felt for mum, she felt guilty, something beyond her control.
2013…. I see a Breast Cancer Clinic in Perth to get information, options and support from the most experienced in the business. I was “too” young and not high risk enough at age 24. Once again heart break as all I wanted was some insight into my options. Although, the gene fault didn’t mean I was definitely going to get breast cancer, it increased my already high risk of getting breast cancer. Mum arranged for me to see her breast surgeon to get some information.
Option 1 – maintenance, which I was doing, self checks, yearly ultrasounds and when older mammograms. I already hated and stressed about my annual ultrasound. How much longer wouldn it be before I found a lump, or had a scare.
Option 2 – preventative surgery, with a) mastectomy with implants, b) stomach fat, c) double mastectomy with expander implants and lat dorsi reconstruction.
So here I am… nearly six months after my preventative double mastectomy and reconstruction with air expanders, lat dorsi muscles reconstruction, the first of three procedures. I am now two procedures down and have silicone implants.
I feel blessed to have the opportunity to take my life into my own hands, change a fate, a fate that was not certain, but highly likely. Extreme you might say, but to me, a chance to live a long and healthy life. It was a tough decision yes, but really was a no brainer.