I recently found out that I have the BRCA1 genetic mutation. And even though I’ve recently gone through a hell of a year of intense treatment for widespread gynecologic cancer, I am now facing the fact that I am at very high risk for breast cancer. Like really high risk. I’m told that there is an 87 percent chance that I’ll contract breast cancer in my lifetime. And although at age 45, I’ve already lived through part of my lifetime risk, those odds are still uncomfortably high.

According to the National Cancer Institute, prophylactic mastectomy in high-risk women may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 90 percent. As I see it, I didn’t go through 3 surgeries, 24 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, and a year of fighting my way back to health just to have another form of cancer come in the back door and take me out. Fuck that. This is why, when told that I could voluntarily remove my healthy breasts in order to save my life, I didn’t hesitate to say “I will.”

Now, there’s certainly some grief wrapped up in this decision, and I do not take it lightly. In the days and weeks since I received the news, I notice that I’m looking at and thinking about my breasts with a bit of melancholy. These breasts have been with me for 45 years after all. And we’ve been through a lot together. And as much as I may have griped about their size or placement or perkiness over the years, I’ve grown quite fond of them (as has my husband).

They were there when I let the first boy go to second base in the front seat of his car in my parents’ driveway (sorry, Mom and Dad). They’ve been through multiple relationships and given me great pleasure along the way. They helped me learn what I like sexually. They’ve been with me through my experimental phases. They’ve enhanced countless outfits; they’ve been sprinkled with glitter and slathered with shimmery oils and lotions. They’ve been pushed up with bustiers and displayed on nude beaches. They’ve baked in the sun and been burned and tanned and freckled.

They’ve endured hundreds of self-exams and dozens of less than pleasant mammograms.They’ve been pushed and prodded and biopsied, but always come through like champs.

They’ve ached with my periods and been swollen and full of milk.

They fed my daughter, until I had to start chemotherapy and stop breastfeeding.

So now I (and my husband) will say goodbye to them. But I don’t feel sorry for myself. Not even a little bit. Because all of us who have been touched by cancer know that we’ll do whatever it takes to live.

I have met and heard the stories of many fellow sojourners who have lost their breasts and more and kept on going. In addition to breasts, they’ve lost arms and legs and hands and feet. They’ve lost their eyes and they’ve lost their voices. They’ve lost their reproductive organs. They’ve lost their testicles. But they have adapted and moved on. And thrived.

They are bad-asses, and they are my heroes. Because of them, I do not hesitate to do the next right thing. To do whatever it takes.

If you learned you had the cancer gene, what would YOU do?

Images top to bottom: TipsTimes/Flickr; MoveTheClouds/Flickr

Originally published on CafeMom.

7 Thoughts on “I’m having my healthy breasts removed.

  1. While i respect your choice, what i would do is keep them and opt for thorough ongoing screening.

  2. Trish on March 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm said:

    I would remove them in exchange for peace of mind. Good luck on your journey…great strides are being made with research and each day you are here, more cures are being discovered.

  3. Trish on March 22, 2013 at 7:28 pm said:

    I would remove them in exchange for peace of mind. I would be too worried that screening might miss something and breasts are something that aren’t usually visible anyway, so with clothes on, nothing would look different. Good luck on your journey…research is finding cures each day so I pray you have a long and happy life.

  4. I would wait a year or two to let my body heal from previous treatment. I have not had reconstructive surgery yet (after 2 years) because I don’t feel that my body is ready for more surgery.

    However, your worry is YOUR worry, and that’s very personal, private, and individualized.

    I worry more about allopathic cancer treatment killing me than cancer killing me.

    So I do what reduces my worry and I would invite you to do the same – whatever reduces YOUR worry.

  5. T Roby on May 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm said:

    I, too, have the BRCA mutation (as does my 27-year old daughter). I had breast cancer in my right breast and opted to have both breasts removed in early 2011 with reconstruction at the same time and have not regretted that decision at any time. It is a long process (depending on which type of reconstruction you decide on), but (in my opinion) it is well worth the peace of mind. My only advice is to do what your heart and mind tell you to do. EVERYONE is different and has their own opinions . . . but do they really matter in your decision? I don’t think so . . . and definitely didn’t in mine! Thoughts and prayers in your continuing journey. Thank you for putting into words what I have so often felt!

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