When I was thirteen I said goodbye to my mother, she lost a two and a half year battle with ovarian cancer. She held my hand and apologized for not being able to be with me for as long as she should have been. It was one of those moments that will always remain vivid, it was so hard to hear, but I know it was so hard to say.
When I turned 18 I chose to be tested for the BRCA1 mutation as my mom had tested positive for it after her diagnosis, this causes much higher occurrences of breast and ovarian cancer. I got more from my mom than her eyes and kind heart, I inherited her BRCA1 mutation as well.
I started getting mammograms and MRIs at 24 and this made the information I had been sitting on for six years become so much more real. I was told my lifetime risk of breast cancer could be close to 87%. I tried not to get too caught up in the statistics, but it is so hard when they aren’t in your favor. I was advised to come in for testing every four months, forever, or until they finally found what they were looking for. Throw in a late night missed call from the hospital after a mammogram and that unmistakable look on your doctor’s face when she thinks she feels something, and it was enough for me. I wasn’t interested in catching cancer early, I was interested in never getting it at all.
Earlier this year I decided to undergo a preventative double mastectomy, it was both the easiest and most difficult decision I have ever made. I handled this surgery well in a lot of ways, but physically wasn’t one of them. My best friend held my hand, looked in my eyes and promised that it wouldn’t last forever, and she was right. Soon after, my sister was speaking to her neighbor about me. She had received a Giving Key that said "Fearless" and was looking to pass it on. She thought this was the perfect opportunity. She gave it to my sister to give to me. I was so touched by this gesture coming from someone I did not know. This year has been a difficult journey, but I am quickly approaching my last surgery and look forward to putting this behind me.
When all is said and done, I like my scars. They remind me of where I have been. My chest will be forever numb, but I have long ago learned that the greatest things we feel are more than skin deep. What I can feel instead is my beating heart and the blazing hope that my life, however it plays out and regardless of how many years I get, is happy and thriving and real. Every struggle can leave you in just as good a place as every triumph. It is about choices, and heart, and believing (even in your darkest hour) that there is ALWAYS something more.
In my journey I met an amazing young woman my age who more recently found herself on this same path. I will pass my key along to her, so she can find added strength and encouragement knowing that she too, is fearless.