Taking Charge of Her Health — A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story
My name is Jenn. I am a 45-year-old wife and mother of 2. I am the mom that will drive 2 states away for something my kids have to have. I exercise daily, never smoked, and couldn’t tell you the last time I had a drink. I turned 45 in August and vowed to myself this is my year I was going to take care of myself — so I went for genetic testing.
I was on my way to a concert when I received the call that I have a Chek2 mutation. Awesome, what does that mean? (By the way, spitting in a little plastic container can tell you so many things. I am still amazed by that to this day.) I listened to the genetic counselor and made an appointment to see her the following week. I am the Google queen, so I did as much research as possible. I went in open-minded after my preventative options were laid out on the table. She told me, “Jenn, you don’t need to decide today or next month. Know the facts. Talk to your family and think it through, this is a big decision.” I lost my maternal grandmother and maternal aunt at 59 due to breast cancer. My mom had breast cancer at 49. She was a survivor, but she passed away at 59 due to a massive heart attack. One might say I won the gene pool. So, I did my research and made my decision.
Having been an A cup my whole life, I figured “What the heck?!”. I decided to do a double mastectomy with reconstruction. I thought — “I will do this and then never have to worry about another mammogram where the tech looks at me like I have 3 breasts.”
I was going to schedule for March but then COVID hit. Yes, free hall pass! No elective surgeries were being done. The more time I had, the more chicken I got. I had a fabulous CRNP, Andrea. She called me every 2 weeks to check in on me and was never pushy. It was enough to remind me I had to schedule my surgery at some point. The restrictions were lifted and I decided to schedule for August 14th — just a few days after my 45th birthday. I got this! No problem. I felt like I was playing with fate in a sense. I was honestly torn for months. My surgery went extremely well. I went in for 7:30 a.m. and was home by noon. I was on my way to recovery.
I must say, the first time you view yourself in the mirror is extremely humbling. The drainage tubes were a pain, but aside from that, I was healing well. I got this! Then August 24th happened. I received a call that changed my life forever. It was my daughter’s first day of college. I had a mammogram and ultrasound a week prior to surgery and was given a clear report. It did not even dawn on me that they send what was removed for testing. The surgeon herself called. I heard her voice and I knew this could not be good. She told me they found an 8mm cancerous cyst in my left breast. I did not hear a word she said after that. I literally thought I was going to faint. How? This can’t be! I was scheduled with a medical oncologist the following week. I took two days to binge eat and cry. I then put on my big girl panties and said, “Come what may”.
I was fortunate. It was in stage 1. They removed cancer already. I did not need chemo. My cancer was hormone-based, so I am on Tamoxifen for the next 5 years. I know I felt like I was initially playing with fate. Thank goodness I did. I feel I have several angels looking out for me.
This whole experience has humbled me beyond belief. I now live every day as if it is my last. I value my friendships and adore my family more than I thought I could. Please mothers, women, girls, take the time to do your self-exams and routine yearly mammograms. Nobody gets excited to go, but it is something you owe to yourself and loved ones. The last month has been a roller coaster, but quite honestly, I do believe everything happens for a reason. I have learned to love deeper, laugh a lot more, and savor the small things in life.
Taking Charge of Her Health — A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story was originally published in Livestrong Voices on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.