In two weeks time I will willingly hop onto the gurney in one of the surgical suites at Hutt Hospital and undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.
Truthfully, I am scared and I am a little sad too.
But I am also eternally grateful that the option has been made available to me. And I am confident that the decision I have made is most definitely the right decision for me and for my family.
I am not a carrier of the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene and I do not have breast cancer. I'm in a funny little side category and I have only once met someone else who fits into the same category as me. When I met Janine, she had finished her treatment for the breast cancer that had appeared just 10 short years after treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. 6 months later her breast cancer returned, and she did not survive.
Second cancers are common among survivors of childhood and young adult cancers and they are the leading cause of death in long-term survivors of Hodgkins. Breast cancer is the most frequent second cancer among women post-Hodgkins.
Because of my chance meeting with Janine, and some subsequent google searches, I asked my GP for a referral to our local breast specialist to discuss my lifetime risk. She immediately arranged to see me and begin yearly MRI screening. It has been through her knowledge and guidance that I have been able to make a plan and move forward in such a positive and proactive way.
I first met with my surgeon in mid 2012 when I was put on the waiting list for surgery. It has been a long 18 months. At first my husband and I talked about the consequences a lot. We looked at pictures, and imagined how we would process such a large change to my body. But as time went on the conversations became less frequent and it seemed we got further from the reality of the upcoming surgery. After a year, it had morphed into a fictional tale we had once told.
So, as one may well imagine, I was completely shocked when the news came through that I finally had a date for surgery. February 10th. My family and I had just enjoyed a relaxing Christmas and New Year, the kids and I had been enjoying our holidays together and I had started planning a workshop series across NZ for the Whole Lotta Life Foundation starting in March of this year.
I would love to tell you that I gracefully received the news, quickly changed gears with out skipping a beat and all whilst dressed like a 1950's housewife, however that is not exactly how it happened...at all.
In true Kristin style my brain exploded into a million different pieces, thinking of all of the complications of me taking a month+ off of my life. In a panic I called family the very next day. I started madly googling as if the powers of the internet would surely know what I should be doing with last 3 weeks of my breasts and I second guessed every decision I had carefully thought out with my surgical team. (and that's just in the last 5 days!). Now I start the process of collecting up all of the splattered pieces of brain and get busy enjoying the next two weeks I have with my chest in tact.
Before my husband and I travel to Wellington for the surgery, I am going to enjoy the last of the school holiday, the kids and I are going to make a plaster cast of "Mummy's Floppys" and if I can get my brain to focus on something other than the surgery, I will go back to planning our Workshop Tour for the Foundation.
I am finding little things to be grateful for everyday and writing them down to put in a jar for when I get home from surgery. That way I can pick one out every time I'm feeling low. And I am on my mat practicing yoga everyday. I am cutting back my coffee to a 50/50 blend with decaf in the hopes to be off by surgery. I am finding nutritious foods and stocking up on goodies for strength and my immune system. And I am taking in the last of the summer swimming. I truly am one crazily blessed lady!
A Little More About What We Know:
In recent years more and more studies have uncovered that radiation in woman to the chest area before the age of 30 results in an increase in breast cancer risk that rivals the numbers found in people with the BRCA gene except currently there isn't a screening program or after treatment follow-up for these women so they are walking around with a ticking time bomb attached to their chests and unless they've known the right questions to ask, they will have no idea of the risk. Second cancer are common among survivors of childhood and young adult cancers and they are the leading cause of death in long-term survivors of Hodgkins. Breast cancer is the most frequent second cancer among women post-Hodgkins.
A recent study showed - The risk of developing breast cancer by age 50 was:
- 31% for women with an abnormal BRCA1 gene
- 10% for women with an abnormal BRCA2 gene
- 35% for women who had childhood Hodgkin lymphoma
Check with your GP if:
- You have radiation to your chest, neck or head.
- You were under 30 at the time of treatment
You may need additional screening or be put under a breast surgeon to monitor and evaluate the risk. Any questions, put them in the comments below or feel free to send us an email!