October is my most loved and most hated month of the year. My birthday is the 15th of October and I love my birthdays. But it is also the month of breast cancer awareness and I do not like to be reminded…
My mom was 38 years old when diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember it like yesterday as it was on the day of my 12th birthday. She had to tell us on this day as she needed to go to surgery the day after. It must have been the most difficult moment in my mom’s life. My dad was traveling and we did not have internet or mobile phones yet so my sister (16 years old back then) and I stayed home alone, while my mom was in hospital until my father’s return.
I remember visiting my mom in hospital and I also remember I wish I would have never seen her like that. She was so weak; it was as life had left her body. I was angry at her back then. Angry for being sick and leaving us at home all alone.
Unfortunately, I grew up with a very twisted relationship with my breasts. For me they represented illness and death. I had to run every 6 months to a bunch of tests, as my mom was very young when she was diagnosed. I always suffered from knots in my breast and waited sleepless nights for negative test results. Cancer was just a big part of my life. But I never was as scarred of this sickness until I became a mom myself.
Just a week after my daughter was born I had a mastitis (is an inflammation of breast tissue) with high fever and massive painful knots in my breasts. Every doctor reassured me that the knots came from the infection, but I could not sleep or eat until the test results came back.
At one point my breast were so infected, that my doctors were recommending the genetic mutation test which had just been released. It would give us all a piece of mind; so we thought. The doctor called me to tell me that I carried the BRCA1 genetic mutation my mom and my grandmother carried. My percentage of becoming sick at a young age was so high that my doctors and my health insurance recommended a prophylactic double mastectomy. It was still very unusual to treat a “healthy” body in that intense way, but I could not wait to do the operation. I wanted to get rid of “them”. The only problem was that I was pregnant again. So I waited and hoped for the best. I managed to breastfeed my son for a couple of month before I went through a very complicated, long procedure (just three months before Angelina Jolie had her mastectomy).
Recovery was hard and long. I had trained a lot as I knew I would not be able to do most of the “normal” moves for a long time. I would not be able to carry my kids (my son was 4 month and my daughter 18 months), but I knew it would be for the greater good. I thought I would struggle more with my new breast, but I didn’t. I woke up from a 6 hours operation and two surgeons said with a big smile “We can guarantee a 99.9% that you will not get breast cancer”! I know that I can still get sick, but these words back then were all I wanted and needed to hear.
I do not talk a lot about my mastectomy; most people simple do not understand. Even a lot of doctors do not understand. I am happy though to talk with whoever needs guidance or help about this topic. I just do not engage in general discussions; it is after all my way of dealing with a life threatening illness that has chased almost every female member of my family. And although I am still struggling to accept my body sometimes, I never regret my decision which I did not only take for myself but for my entire family.