Stories of Genetic Testing, Prophylactic Surgery, and Reconstruction: Kerry
Kerry Osmond
September 8, 2016

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Kerry Osmond was 10 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. When it became available, genetic testing for a mutation that raises the risk of breast cancer was strongly recommended for Kerry’s mom -- in 2010 her mother tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation. Kerry knew that meant she had a 50-50 chance of having the same mutation. In 2012, she decided to have genetic testing and learned that she, too, had a BRCA2 mutation. She decided to have a double prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction using tissue from her hip area. Kerry is one of three women whose stories are featured in the Breastcancer.org video series on genetic testing, prophylactic surgery, and reconstruction. Kerry’s younger sister, Mandi, also tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation and is also in the video series.

Listen to the podcast to hear Kerry talk about:

  • how her family uses their experience to help others
  • how she connected with women who had similar surgeries on the Breastcancer.org discussion boards
  • how sharing her story in the video was healing in a way
  • why talking to other women who had already had prophylactic surgery was encouraging

Running time: 13:56

These podcasts, along with all the other vital content and community support at Breastcancer.org, only exist because of the generous donations of listeners like you. Please visit Breastcancer.org/support to learn how you can help keep our services free for you and the millions of women who depend on us.

Show Full Transcript

Center For Restorative Breast Surgery

Jamie DePolo: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Breastcancer.org podcast. I’m Jamie DePolo, the senior editor of Breastcancer.org. Today’s guest is Kerry Osmond, one of the women whose story of genetic testing and prophylactic surgery is featured on the Breastcancer.org site. This podcast is made possible by the generous support of the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans.

Kerry Osmond was 10 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. When it became available, genetic testing for mutation that raises the risk of breast cancer was strongly recommended for Kerry’s mom. In 2010, her mother tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation. Kerry knew that meant she had a 50/50 chance of having the same mutation.

In 2012, she decided to have genetic testing and learned that she too had a BRCA2 mutation. She decided to have a double prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction using tissue from her hip area. Kerry is one of three women whose stories are featured in the Breastcancer.org video series on genetic testing, prophylactic surgery, and reconstruction. Today, she’s going to talk to us about making the videos and sharing her story. Kerry, welcome to the podcast, and thank you so much for doing this.

Kerry Osmond: Thanks for having me.

Jamie DePolo: I’m curious. What was your first thought when the people from the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery asked you if you’d like to participate in the video? What did you think?

Kerry Osmond: I felt very touched. Honestly, the first thought that I had was absolutely whatever I can do to help them out. They have just been a huge part of my family’s life -- the doctors, the staff, everyone there is wonderful -- and I really feel that women really need to know about the Center. And if this happens to be a way to help spread that word, I feel honored for being asked to participate. You know, that idea that they thought personally of me, remembering a patient of theirs from 4 years ago, I guess just really, in my mind, speaks volumes to how much they care about their patients.

Jamie DePolo: Did you have any hesitation at all? Did any little part of you say, “I’m not sure if I want to be so public with this story”?

Kerry Osmond: No. I think, honestly, I think time helped, the time lapse from when I had the surgery, being able to kind of step back and kind of process everything. I think if anything, I wanted to make sure I was conveying everything in a really honest and informative way.

Jamie DePolo: And both you and your sister Mandi, who also had prophylactic surgery and reconstruction -- and she is in another podcast that we’ve done -- you’re both in the videos. What did the rest of your family think about that?

Kerry and Mandi Walking

Kerry Osmond: Everybody was very supportive without a question. You know, it was all about, “Okay, how can this experience help others,” and about drawing awareness to the Center. It’s just been something that’s been very important to my family. I mean, quite honestly, many of them are very open about sharing our stories with people that they happen to just run into, and really encourage them to go to the Center. You know, even, in fact, since my mom was diagnosed many years ago, she’s really always been very open about telling her story as a survivor if she runs into someone who may be going through cancer. So, most definitely, everyone in our family was very supportive about sharing that message.

Jamie DePolo: When you yourself were considering your prophylactic surgery and reconstruction, I know that you said you did a bit of research. Were there videos that were helpful to you, or photos? I guess what I’m wondering is, compared to what you have now and the videos we’re doing, was there a lack of information for you? Did you feel like there was a knowledge gap there?

Kerry Osmond: Yes, in some ways. I didn’t, I can’t say I watched many videos at all. I don’t really remember a lot being out there at the time. I definitely searched out video, or excuse me, photos. That was something I was, you know, very, it was a big thing to me. And I think that just being very honest is, you want to know how everything’s going to look, and I think that that’s absolutely okay, and I would encourage anybody to go and do that. But looking back at that time, definitely videos, I did not really find that that was a strong resource that was out there. When it comes to photos, I did happen to come across some photos.

There was a lot of different resources I was going out to when I was thinking about even the genetic testing and if the results came back positive. I was starting to read some articles about women who had gone through the surgery. And then I even, in fact, after finding out that I had the positive genetic test result, decided to go out and start not only looking for photos, but happened to be looking around and found a person who had gone to this place in New Orleans. And I’m like, “I want to hear more about that, what that’s all about,” ended up kind of reaching out to them. And they actually have some photos on their website, so I started to look at a few of those photos. And they even very early on got me connected with a few women who had gone there, and in talking with those women, they had then shared some different resources that they had gone on.

One of them happened to be Breastcancer.org, it was a forum, there is a forum right on Breastcancer.org for women who have gone to the Center in New Orleans. And it was a really nice way to be able to connect with women, and just ask them, like, very honest questions about what they were going through. And there was photos out there, too, if you wanted to go and see that. When I eventually did pursue making the surgery date, what have you, with the Center, there was even more photos and more access to that information that I had. But yeah, I mean, you had to seek it out. But thankfully, one path just led to another path to be able to provide me with more information.

Jamie DePolo: How did you feel when you were talking about your story on camera? I know some women I’ve talked to who’ve gone through similar situations, or women who’ve been diagnosed, they talk about it being almost like PTSD, like it’s a very sharp moment in their memory. Did that sort of bring back a lot of those same feelings?

Kerry Osmond: Yes. Honestly, it was very emotional, in ways I didn’t even realize. There was a lot of different feelings and thoughts that just came rushing back about the whole experience, and kind of processing everything that had happened. You know, it did set in, those thoughts were starting to enter my mind, even planning for the video itself. But then when it actually came to doing the video, it’s just like, all the stuff started to unfold, and all those thoughts started to reenter. So, what you’ve just mentioned, I would wholeheartedly agree with.

I will say, though, that in the end, it was kind of, honestly, truly amazing to kind of look back and realize everything that I had personally gone through, my sister, my family, that we all went through during this time. And it really made me appreciate all the blessings that I have, and just getting through that all. So at the end of it, that was really the thing that I took away with it, that I think was really healing, in some ways.

Jamie DePolo: Was there one part of making the video that kind of stands out for you as being really memorable, or something that just, it surprised you, or anything like that?

Kerry Osmond: Yeah, there was a couple. I mean, one in particular that stood out was talking about my mom’s diagnosis and everything that went along with that. Like after she had her surgery, and all those parts of that, struck a real strong emotional cord with me that I knew was there, but boy, again, just talking about it just -- those feelings rushed back. I guess I would have to say the other part really was talking about my childhood, kind of some experiences that I went through as a child. And then going into, learning about the different options I had for this surgery, and what options I had locally were limited because of my body type. And just like, kind of what I went through as a child, and dealing with all of that, and just feeling like all of a sudden I was limited to some options.

Kerry Interview

But in the end, those limitations led me to be able to treat at the Center, which is where, ultimately, I’m so glad that it worked out that way. But because of those limited options, the Center, that was one of the things they were able to do, was help find tissue from women who may not have had those options locally. So, it really ended up being completely a blessing in the whole thing. But I would have to say those two parts really, for me, draw out a lot more emotion than I think I even realized at the time.

Jamie DePolo: I’m curious, too, do you have any advice for, say, a woman today who might be facing this same situation you were in in 2012? She’s just learned that she’s positive for, say, BRCA2 mutation, maybe a BRCA1 mutation, and she’s watching your video. Would you have any advice for her?

Kerry Osmond: Yeah. I think there’s lots of things that I would like to be able to share. The biggest thing is, you know, you’re not alone in this. You really aren’t. It may feel like that at the moment, but give yourself some time to process this. It takes time. You know, it’s really different for each person, but if you’re someone who likes to get out there and research things, and you may find that that’s going to be helpful for you, I’d really encourage you to do that, and to be your own advocate. You know, follow with what you think is best for you. Do what’s right in your heart.

Talking with other women is extremely helpful. I mean, I know if I was just having a bad day, connecting with a woman who I know was going through this or had already had her surgeries, I would just feel so uplifted and encouraged that I could get through this myself. So, that would be one thing. The other would be seeking out support. You know, whether you’ve just gotten the genetic testing or you maybe just have had surgery, whatever the situation may be, I really would encourage someone to reach out. You need support during this time, especially when you get home, talking about the situation after having surgery, when you get home, that’s really when the healing begins, and I remember the doctor actually telling me that, too.

You need to be able to talk it through, and also with your family, because they are walking through this too, and you need to reach out for support. If somebody’s offering it up, take them up on it. It’s going to help you and your loved ones get through this. Having that emotional support is just, I think, a really big thing. I can’t stress that enough, and I really see that also as an opportunity for improvement for women facing these decisions, if there’s a way to just connect women. I don’t know what those answers may be, but I really think that that is an opportunity that really needs to be more of a focus put on that. I guess in the end, I would have to say that you can do this. You can really come out feeling empowered by your choices. You know, I honestly think it takes time to just process all this information, but my gosh, I think of, like, the women in my life, my family, my friends who have gone through some of these things. And those scars tell a lot of stories about strength, and just the ability to stand up and fight. You are going to come out of this stronger, and I believe you’ll have a whole new outlook on life. Life does go on, and it can be really great. There’s a lot of blessings that can come out of this.

Jamie DePolo: Well, that’s excellent advice. Thank you so much, Kerry. Thank you for being in the videos. Thank you for doing this podcast. We really appreciate it, and I hope we get to talk to you again in the future.

Kerry Osmond: Thank you. I just really want to thank the Center and Breastcancer.org for helping bring to light these different resources. I know myself, my family, is grateful to be given this opportunity to be part of this experience. So, thank you.

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