My name is Tash and this is my story.
My great grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 49 and underwent a bilateral mastectomy. Unfortunately we lost her when she was 69. My nana was also diagnosed with breast cancer at 41 years of age and again at 49, she went through two lots of chemotherapy and mastectomy. My great aunty was diagnosed at the age of 38 and she went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy and at 55 she elected to have a mastectomy on her remaining breast to prevent the chance of cancer reoccurring.
From a very young age my mum was always explaining my family history to me. I understood that my risk of following in my family’s footsteps would be high so when the opportunity arose to be tested for the BRCA gene mutation I jumped at the chance to know once and for all if it were to be my fate. To no real surprise at the age of 20 I was diagnosed with a hereditary gene mutation (BRCA 1) which would increase my chance of being diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer in my lifetime. I inherited this mutation from my fathers side of the family.
At 23 I made a bold decision to have a preventative double mastectomy followed by a reconstruction. It was made very clear to me that my risk was high and I was advised by my breast surgeon to have this preventative surgery prior to planning a family. There was a magnitude of information being processed over the three years it took me to have the preventative mastectomy. I researched and researched until my heart was content.
In March of 2011 I had my preventative bilateral mastectomy at Flinders Private Medical Centre. The surgery had gone very well and it was now time to face the road to recovery head on and embrace this brand new beginning I was offered. I was feeling so empowered and proud of myself. There was no way I could have done this without the loving support of my family, friends and most of all Pink Hope.
In June of 2011 I had reconstruction surgery. Although the reconstruction went well the process was by no means easy. I went through some troubling times. My emotions were all over the place and at times I had felt so isolated and misunderstood by many. I had made this bold yet brave decision to take a preventative measure for myself. However all I could think about was my future children. The risk of passing this on was 50/50. My fear was immeasurable and so very real. Over time the fear eased as I gained control over this diagnosis. I realised I had this great power to educate my children, not everyone is lucky enough to have such an opportunity like this in life.
My surgery journey continued over the years with a rotated implant fixed in 2012 and capsular contracture in 2015 which had resulted in a very painful P\pneumothorax due to my lung being punctured during surgery to remove the capsule. After a week long stay in hospital I was on the road to recovery yet again.
In the midst of these set backs I had started the family I always wanted. Mason Theodore was born in October of 2012 and Hudson Joseph was born in April 2015. These boys were my light at the end of the dark tunnel. I also started my nursing degree in 2014. Some might have thought I had bitten off more than I could chew, or even called me crazy. At this point in my life I knew I had more to do, my vision to educate and support women like me was too big to ignore. I managed to complete my degree in three years studying full time with a toddler and a new born.
One of my biggest mental struggles over the last few years has been my increased risk of ovarian cancer. I am 32 now and this fear is growing. I have recently started screening for this, however I do remain positive and hopeful if this is to be a fate of mine I would have the power and knowledge to catch it early. I am now living in rural Whyalla working as a registered nurse at the local hospital. My boys are thriving, we are surrounded by family and the best friends we could ask for.
This disease is a brutal reality for so many women and men around the world. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to make a decision to change my life, many never get the same chance.
I thank Pink Hope and all the women that support Pink Hope for helping me though my tough time and for the continued support.