I initially struggled with the transition from previvor-to- survivor. My breast cancer journey has taught me a lot about myself and has provided me with the opportunity to connect with many incredible previvors and breast cancer thrivers.
How it Started
I decided to have genetic testing done in my early twenties because of a significant family history of breast cancer. Testing revealed that I have a BRCA1 gene mutation.
When I received the news I wasn’t ready to think about the serious implications of these test results; I had just finished teacher’s college, was preparing to move to London England to begin my career.
Despite not being ready to take action I knew almost instantly I wanted to have a prophylactic (preventative) double mastectomy. My initial plan was to wait until I was secure in my career and had children so that I may breast feed. My doctors were not pushing surgery and I was confident in my decision to wait.
I met with counsellors and a genetic oncologist to discuss my risks and began annual breast screening when I was 25 years old.
Preventative Double Mastectomy
I was told by my genetic oncologist that I would be at risk for developing breast cancer at an earlier age than my mother when she was diagnosed (41) due to the fact that breast cancer tends to develop earlier in later generations. As I approached the age of 30, I began to prepare myself mentally for a double mastectomy. ⠀
In the fall of 2019, I met with two surgeons who were to work alongside each other to remove and reconstruct my breasts. My prophylatic double mastectomy was scheduled just three months from that date.
Ready or not
Unfortunately cancer did not wait for me to find a convenient time. Two weeks before my scheduled surgery I discovered a lump in my left breast.
A few days after finding this suspicious lump I visited a breast assessment centre for diagnostic ultrasounds and biopsies (which was a terrifying experience!)
Just 24 hours before surgery I received the news that the biopsies revealed cancer cells. I was later diagnosed with Stage 3, Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
Not a moment to Breathe
I decided to move forward with my scheduled surgery. The next morning I had my double mastectomy with no time to process my cancer diagnosis.
Two weeks later, and my partner and I were rushed into family planning and fertility preservation.
Just a few days after my egg retrieval surgery I began my cancer treatment (four months of chemotherapy, followed by radiation therapy.)
It was unreal! I have had to take time to look back and reflect on the events several times to allow myself to process all that had happened in a short time.
Reframing my Mindset
It was not easy to build up the courage to have an elective surgery so to say that I was angry over my cancer diagnosis would be an understatement.
I learned a lot about myself during my breast cancer journey and the importance of reframing my mindset. This process has not been prefect but my journey with breast cancer has provided me with opportunities to work on self-love, self-care and advocacy and for that I am thankful.
I have made the choice not to allow this trauma to define me. Instead, I chose to share my experiences to inspire, educate and help other women. I hope in sharing my journey I have provided you with comfort or helpful information.