One year ago today, on August 6, 2013, at the age of 25, I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. In a matter of just 6 short hours, I took my risk of breast cancer from 87% to less than the normal population.
In so many ways, it still seems a little crazy to say that. It seems impossible that it’s already been a full year, but in other ways, it seems like it was even longer ago.
I’m truly struggling to find words to describe what it’s like to reach this point. I’m feeling relief – at being a year out. Excitement – of all the possibilities of my future. Disbelief – that 365 days have already passed. But more than anything, I’m feeling grateful. Grateful for a massive cancer risk reduction. Grateful for technology for even knowing I had that risk in the first place. Grateful for amazing doctors that are incredibly skilled yet wonderful people, too. Grateful for access to fantastic medical care and a fabulous medical team. Grateful for a family that supported me every step of the way. Grateful for parents who never left my side. Grateful for friends that were there to laugh and to cry. Grateful for a job and coworkers that redefined understanding. Simple stated, just grateful.
What a whirlwind of a year it is to think back on! Really though, it seems like I’m reflecting on almost TWO years from when I first thought about having this surgery. There was the decision. Then the first appointments. Then all the waiting. Then pre-op. The (most amazing) Boob Voyage. Then the surgery itself. The negative pathology report. The drains. The first fill. The transition back to real life. The return to work. The second fill (ouch). The “Fab”ulous-ness. The walk. And finally? The long-awaited exchange surgery. I’m so grateful that my entire experience went so well, despite the unexpected 6-month hiccup with my shunt. No, it wasn’t all easy – three surgeries in a year? Not fun. But yes, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Literally, no hesitation. Sure there’s days where I’m still getting used to having implants (really only because of how pecs act when they’re outside of implants, especially when lifting or working out) or not having any feeling (this is just a bit scary of all things, like when I’m around hot things), but 99% of the time I don’t even think about the surgery. And what a beautiful thing that is to say.
So what happens from here? Well, I had my one-year visit (a little early) with my breast surgeon’s NP. Gotta say – breast exam when you can’t feel them? Super weird! But she’s just wonderful and will follow me from here, and is my go-to with any concerns. Of which thankfully, there are none. I also follow up closely with my plastic surgeon from here on out, but I suppose that too is pretty obvious. And then of course there’s the continued ovarian cancer surveillance, but that’s just a part of being BRCA positive. And really? It’s not too bad at all.
It’s safe to say that, while incredibly different from where I was this time last year, I’m in a remarkably good place in my life. Happy. Healthy. Grateful.