My name is Veronica and this is my story.
Back in 2003, when I was 13 years old my Mum, aged 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer and was confirmed a BRCA1 carrier. Sadly, two years after my Mum’s first diagnosis her cancer had metastasized and after lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, she went palliative at the lovely Mary Potter Hospice, losing her battle on the 11th March 2005, aged 42.
Following the loss of my Mum, I patiently waited until my 16th Birthday (the legal age to provide medical consent in SA) to find out whether I too was a BRCA1 carrier. Following some counselling and support from my immediate family, a simple blood test confirmed my inheritance of the BRCA1 gene mutation. Personally, this diagnosis confirmed what I thought I already knew, and it was the motivating factor as well as the personal experience of losing my Mum, and the impact of the BRCA1 gene throughout my family that lead to my decision to be as proactive as I could be and thus I underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy.
In July 2012, aged 22, with the support of amazing surgeon, Dr Melissa Bochnear, my family, friends, and the Pink Hope community including Laura Miller (nee Gadd) I decided to undergo my prophylactic mastectomy. I underwent a nipple sparing technique, with 255ml implants and overall had a successful operation making a full recovery. I was able to go back to my usual physical capabilities and in all honestly preferred my new breasts compared to my natural ones!
Personally, for myself, the surgery was always a ‘no brainer’ and the rollercoaster my Mum endured will always be my reason to undergo future prophylactic measures. That said, I can sympathise with the difficulties that many women face in deciding what they want to do.
I am now 29 years old and admittedly the most beneficial part of undergoing my mastectomy has simply been the peace of mind knowing that I have done everything in my power to minimize my own risk at this current time. For the first few years post my mastectomy I had regular physical examinations with my surgeon, however since relocating to Brisbane, I have since opted to monitor my own breasts for changes. Other than my own personal surveillance, I do not undergo any other regular blood tests or monitoring. Whilst I am naturally an optimistic and easy going kind of person, I really believe that undergoing my mastectomy has helped me live my 20’s without really worrying about being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Whilst, I am currently single and do not have any children, I know that being a BRCA1 carrier has further struggles ahead in my journey, such as my decisions regarding reproducing with IVF, utilising pre-implantation genetic diagnosis as well having a hysterectomy once I have had children or roughly by the time I am 40.
Whilst my future is still a bit of an unknown mystery, what I do know is that Pink Hope is an invaluable resource providing quality information and an amazing community where women can reach out, meet and support one other.