I’m a Previvor
My relationship with the demonic being called cancer started when I was only two weeks old when my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t know a lot about it growing up, other than it was something that made people sick.
As I got older, more and more family members fought this barbaric menace. Medics believe it is genetically related to, but not the same as, the recognised ‘Jolie genes,’ BRCA 1 and 2. My beautiful aunts lost their hair, but not their pride or dignity. When I reached my twenties, I was referred to the breast clinic and told my options to prevent this from entering my family’s little world.
Prophylactic, bilateral, preventative, mastectomy—words floating around my mind for months. The hard truth was my healthy breasts, which were used to feed and nurture my two babies for almost a year each, had to be removed.
I found out the facts, spoke to psychologists, checked the boxes, and booked my operation in August 2015. The day came like Christmas to a child, the nervous excitement, and butterflies that build up; that relief that it’s finally here, the day I can take a stance against this evil. It would not take me.
I had both breasts removed on the 6th of August 2015, and felt like the weight had been lifted from my shoulders. No more worrying, my 97 percent estimated risk was obliterated. I now have less of a chance (5 percent) of breast cancer developing than the average woman, who has a 12 percent risk.
Three weeks post operation I took an infection in the wound area. I tried to defend my new body using antibiotics and IV drips, but to no avail. I was advised the tissue expander for reconstruction had to be removed. To make matters worse, the only surgery day available was on my baby girl’s fourth birthday. I hit a low.
I came home with a heavy heart and a hard-to-fill emptiness. Over the next few weeks of hospital visits, I had a decision to make. What should I do? Reconstruct one breast? Leave them both?
I had a holiday ahead, this did not fit my plans. I had not wagered on any problems occurring, but still. I was fortunate. I did not have cancer!
Three months down the line, reconstruction of the right breast aka Foob (fake, fantastic, fabulous and free boob) had taken place and I was now unique, like a unicorn. I was a unifoob!
Three more months later, I received news (with some forceful complaining to my surgeon) that I had a date for surgery before Christmas. I had my expander replaced and have reconstructed both breasts. I have used my chance to remove my ticking time bombs and prevent this from affecting and casting a shadow over my little world.
One thing I had decided on before going ahead with surgery was that I wanted to share my story. I wanted to he
lp other women who were in limbo wondering how scary the scars would be, and if they would still be the same woman they were before losing such a beautiful, womanly part of themselves. So I plucked up the courage and inner strength to document, blog, and post every detail of my journey on my page, Mastectomy My Way: Cancer, You Lose.
I have spoken about everything from discussions with psychologists, to what to expect, to showing photos of my scars, and examples of what the expanders and implants look like. I wanted this process laid bare for all to see. No hidden agendas.
Women from all around the world have flocked to my page to ask gory details of how I felt, how I recovered, and advice for them as they approach their own mastectomies. Along the way, I have made many new friends and acquaintances who have helped me with my grieving process when I lost my implant for three months.
I am a very lucky girl to have such fantastic support behind me. I am strong. I am free.
I am not a survivor, I am a previvor.
*Pictures by Katie Tonner Photography