My name is Kelly, and I am a mutant! At least, I think that part is fun to say. In reality I have a mutation of my BRCA1 gene, which protects my body against harmful cancers of the breasts and ovaries. I have made the decision to undergo a bilateral radical mastectomy sooner rather than later- on May 9th, 2014 at 20 years old.
Those that know me personally were hardly shocked by my decision, considering I tested for the gene before being legally allowed to do so. I had my blood drawn at 17, after meeting with a genetic oncologist and a genetic counselor. I found out my results 3 weeks later, on August 9, 2011. 3 days after my 18th birthday. Welcome to adulthood!
I am and always have been an independent soul. I knew I had very little control over the situation I was in, so I grabbed the reins of what I could, and to me, that was finding out alone. My dad has always been my biggest supporter, so I was afraid of what he would say when I told him I wanted to be in the room without him when they read me my results. He laughed and said, “your mom always did the same thing.”
I went into the room with my ‘mommy bear’ in hand (a bear my mom gave me with her voice on it singing my childhood bedtime song), and a pack of tissues. “Unfortunately, the results came back positive.” Sigh. I knew it. Cry, weep, sob, curse God, ask why me. Dad comes in. I try not to show the results on my face. He puts his arm around me. They tell him. Cry, hug, sniffle, repeat. The doctors go over options. Cry.
My dad and I had made the decision not to tell anyone of the test results, especially not my younger brother and sister, as they were 14 and we didn’t think they’d fully understand. In reality, they’re a helluva lot stronger than I give them credit for and they’ve handled everything with grace and maturity.
I went the next 2 years having regularly scheduled breast and gynecological exams, but I still wasn’t comfortable. You see, when you’ve witness first hand (twice) what breast cancer does to a family, you begin to fear that you are going to be the cause of more pain for those you love. I’ve never been afraid of dying or of getting cancer- I’ve been afraid of what it would do to my family, both the family I have now and the one I dream of having in the future. So for me, this surgery is more for maintaining my mental health than my physical health. I look forward to the day when I no longer spend 30 minutes in front of a mirror wondering if every little lump or discoloration is cancer.
I am currently the happiest I have ever been. I live in a beautiful home with my 5 best friends in an amazing city, I look forward to going to class every day, I enjoy my time spent in local middle and high schools student teaching, I have the cutest little sidekick possible (my bun, Howie), and the best family a girl could ask for. I truly know what it feels like to be loved unconditionally, and those people I love have made dealing with this decision so much easier for me. I am truly blessed.
Of course, there have been some less-than-positive comments made which came forth after my interview on National public radio (which you can listen to here), but none from people that truly know me. It’s easy to say things or speak out against my decision when you don’t know the personal history involved, all you have is a 4 minute interview, (which originally was 45 minutes long). So to those people- make sure you’re fully educated before attacking someone else about their personal decision. These comments don’t upset me though, because the only opinions I care about are from my family and a select group of friends- and they’ve all been nothing but supportive.
Many don’t understand my thought process or why I’m choosing to have this surgery now instead of later, so I’ve made this blog to help people understand and maybe see things the way I see them. I’ll post sporadically about the surgery process before, during, and after the recovery, because this is the easiest way to keep a mass group of people up to date (bless the internet!).
Until next time,