I had known that I was BRCA I positive for a little bit. The only reason I knew was that in order for my mom to receive a certain type of chemotherapy, she had to be tested for the gene mutation. When she tested positive for the gene mutation, our oncology team highly recommended that I get tested. Even when I tested positive, I didn’t know about the consequences. It took until last November, after my oncology team really pushed for me to see a surgeon about the potential of breast cancer. In my mind, I was the third generation battling ovarian issues, what did breast cancer have anything to do with my prevention plan?Well, little did I know how much this gene mutation would increase my odds of ovarian, which I was well aware of, but really the significance in developing breast cancer.
“For example, approximately 12% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer at sometime in their lives. But, for women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, the risk of developing breast cancer increases to as much as 72%. Likewise, about 1 to 2% of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer sometime during their lives, but up to 44% of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and about 17% of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by the age of 80.”Rosewell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
By the time I’d left the surgeon’s office, I had fully decided to go forward with the decision to get a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Everyone asked if I was stressed over my decision and surprisingly I wasn’t. See for the past two years I have been on an intense prevention plan for ovarian cancer so the thought of being on another intense prevention plan sounded awful. The idea of a preventative hysterectomy has been on the table for quite some time and isn’t a decision that I’m willing to make at this point in my life, but honestly, to remove my breasts was so much easier.
I went through with the surgery in the middle of January and it was tougher than I had planned on it being. Between the pain and the lack of movement, I felt completely useless. I’m getting ready for my last surgery coming up next Thursday and looking forward to this one being much easier than the last. But this is what I learned in the process of the first surgery: I couldn’t have done without my village.
Three of my village members lived with with me for 72 hours straight helping me get in and out of bed, fixing meals, and watching endless shows on Netflix while I recovered. I don’t ask for help well, actually I don’t ask for help usually ever. See when I was the primary caregiver for my mom during her treatments, I was the help. We often didn’t invite others into our chaos because it was just that: chaotic and messy. My mom didn’t believe in chaos or mess and so it was just us. I’m sure I picked that up along the way because here I am a year plus after her death going through my own chaos and mess and find it difficult to ask for help. But that’s where my village showed up. They all knew I wasn’t going to ask for help and that I would most likely figure it out along the way, but they still showed up. They showed up even when I told them I was going to be fine and really turned out that I needed every extra hand possible. I’ll be forever grateful for my village that showed up in my mess and chaos to help me because I couldn’t have gotten through that surgery without them.
We say no for others all the time without asking the question to begin with. My mom taught me when I first started fundraising for my position in Young Life that people want to help, you just have to ask. Ironic that all those years later, we both learned to just do it ourselves. But here’s my encouragement to you (or maybe more so me these days), ask for help. It’s harder than we give it credit, but just ask. What’s the worst they are going to say? No? No biggie! But stop saying no for others because you are afraid of the chaos and mess. People want to help, you just have to ask.