"I haven’t yet mourned the loss of my breasts. To be honest, I don’t even really miss them. Maybe it’s because everything happened so fast, I just haven’t had the time. Or maybe it’s because this journey I’m on isn’t exactly over. Perhaps it’s because there wasn’t a whole lot there to mourn in the first place (if you catch my drift). Who knows? But, if I had to guess, it’s likely because I know how lucky I am…and that losing my breasts is a small price to pay in exchange for significantly increasing my odds of survival. I may never mourn them. Besides, they probably would’ve killed me."
“Ultimately, they’re just breasts, right? I mean, I love them, they’re mine, they’re beautiful, but in the grand scheme of things, I would rather be alive, and I would rather grow old with my husband.” ~ Shannen Doherty
"I don’t have breast cancer and, because of choices I’ve made, I probably never will. I do, however, carry the sinister BRCA2 gene mutation. I knew immediately that I would have a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction followed by the removal of my ovaries a year or two later. I couldn’t not. There was never, ever any question in my mind. In fact, it came as no surprise to me. Because of family history, I often wondered what I would do if I discovered that I carried the gene. After getting married, certain life-altering decisions become harder to make. Suddenly, your actions affect someone other than yourself. You talk, you consult, you discuss, and eventually you come to a decision (or sometimes, a compromise) that makes both you and your partner happy. After having a child, those same life-altering decisions are often made for you. There’s no talking. There’s no discussing whatsoever (at least there wasn’t for me – enter confused and helpless husband). So, when the test results came back positive, the only real question I had for my doctors was, 'When can we do it?' Two months would pass before I would undergo the 7+ hour surgery."
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ~ Proverb
"I’m not a writer, but I love to write. It’s cathartic. Personally, I get so much out of it that whether people think it’s good or not isn’t even a factor. I knew I’d write about this experience. In fact, I couldn’t wait to do it. I knew it would help me to heal, both physically and mentally. Ironically, doing so would prove to be the most challenging tale I’d ever try to tell. I’ve lost track of how many versions I’ve written. Some were funny, some were graphic. Ultimately, this unexplainable sense of duty I feel to inform others always seems to overshadow my need to write for my own selfish benefit."
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
"The plan was to do an immediate exchange while I was still under…a 'one stop shop', if you will. All of the at-risk breast tissue comes out -- implants of the same size would go in. Unfortunately, complications during surgery steered us off course and our plan took a detour. The day of my surgery, I went into the hospital with my breasts intact. Hours later, I woke up with four drains coming out of my sides, two nerve blocks coming out of my back, a gnarly-looking wound (the aforementioned complications) and two grizzly incisions…at least I had my new breasts! Wrong. My breasts were gone. In their places were two flat tissue expanders covered partially by my very thin pectoral muscles, and partially by nothing more than my skin."
“You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.” ~ Mandy Hale
"The curveballs seemed to come one after another. By the second (unplanned) night in the hospital, I deduced that there is no perfect surgery and that the unexpected is usually what should be expected. Despite them all, severe muscle spasms coupled with unmanageable pain, twice daily treatments for a wound so deep I swore I could see my rib (I might be slightly exaggerating), being sentenced to additional weeks tethered to my drains, and having to wait another 5 months before I’d have breasts again, I never once had to stop and remember the bigger picture: I was alive and healthy. I was always very aware that my condition could be much worse, that so many women would swap places with me in an instant, and that I was one of the lucky ones. I’d do it all again in a skinny minute."
“There is nothing prettier in the whole wide world as a girl in love with every breath she takes.” ~ Atticus
"I had amazingly talented doctors and surgeons and had no doubt that I was in very capable hands. I can honestly say that I was never, ever afraid of surgery. I can’t explain it, but I’ll try. I felt as though everything that was happening to me was exactly that – it was happening to me. The emotions, the decisions, the planning, the doctors’ appointments…I was just along for the ride. For me, it was always the right thing to do. I had been given this opportunity to claim back my future, a future that had an 84%+ chance of being taken from me, from my husband and from my son. So, I accepted every aspect of this gift. I had mentally prepared myself for the pain and, although I had severely underestimated it, I was coping. The one thing I wasn’t handling so well was the selfless generosity of others which sometimes left me speechless and often in tears. I hadn’t shared my story with very many people, but I fully expected my close friends and family to call, text, send a card or two or maybe even drop by to check on me. What I didn’t expect were the endless three-course meals and desserts made by friends and coworkers – all of whom had busy schedules and families of their own, but somehow found time for me. There were also elaborate and thoughtful care packages – some dropped off to my porch and others came by mail. There were flowers, cookies, books, and more, all of which made feel more loved and supported than ever. I could barely keep up with the phone calls and texts from everyone who asked how I was doing and what they could do for me. I wasn’t used to such attention. Why were they making such a big deal about it? I saved my life, not theirs!
“For it is in giving that we receive.”~ Francis of Assisi
"Word travels quickly in a small town like mine, especially within the churches. If it weren’t enough that Reverend Souther paid me a visit in the hospital to pray for me just minutes before they whisked me away for surgery, people I had never even met were praying for me, too. A prayer was said for me at Sunday service and members were including me in their prayer circles. When my friend’s mother delivered to me my very first 'prayer shawl', knitted by members of her church, I was reduced to tears. Up until then, I chalked most of this generosity up to the fact that I had some pretty darned amazing friends and family. Yet, this was made for me by women I had never even met! They didn’t know my name, what I looked like or how old I was! Did they think I had cancer? 'No – wait, I don’t deserve this!,' I thought. While holding that prayer shawl in my hands, I was overcome by guilt. I asked myself, 'What makes them think I am worthy of such a gift?' Things started to make less sense. People were labeling me 'strong' and 'brave'. They said they gave me so much credit for 'doing what I did.' They would tell me that they admired me, for crying out loud! Admire? Me? Why? I didn’t understand it and, quite frankly, it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t consider myself strong OR brave! If you ask me, I took the easy way out! I was given an opportunity to CHEAT – albeit cancer, but it was still cheating – and I took it. The real strong people were those who had no choice but to fight the very battle I decided to avoid. Not me. I wondered why my choice was so inspirational. Wouldn’t anyone in my shoes make the same choice? If given the opportunity to avoid (what I considered) an almost-certain death, wouldn’t anyone take it? Then it hit me. Maybe not everyone would. Maybe some people feared surgery more than cancer. Maybe some people figured it won’t ever happen to them, despite what the test results said. Maybe some people didn’t even know about the test that saved my life."
“Is it really an elective surgery when the alternative is cancer?” ~ Get-the-BRCA-facts
"They call us Previvors - individuals who are survivors of a predisposition to cancer, but who haven't had the disease, including people who carry a hereditary mutation, a family history of cancer, or some other predisposing factor. Through this process, I’ve come to know so many other Previvors whose stories are different, but never fail to inspire or encourage. Sharing mine was always met with much-needed, unconditional and non-judgmental support and encouragement from other women. However, the greater reason for sharing would soon be realized in the form of awareness. It’s a term we hear frequently, and it’s usually followed by a cause (i.e., 'Cancer Awareness' or 'Autism Awareness'). It sounds good in theory until you see first-hand the impact that spreading such awareness can actually make. Since my diagnosis, my sister, my uncle, my cousin and my sister-in-law have decided to get tested, too. This means there are four more people in my very own family who have made the choice to become empowered and take charge of their very futures. I in no way take credit for their decision, but I’m confident that sharing my story has helped to either educate them or simply support them in making it. I can’t tell you how much happiness that brings me. I only wish the women in my family who battled and are battling cancer could’ve taken the test, too. Maybe then, they would never have had to fight at all."
"For all of these reasons and more (which I’d soon learn), I can’t seem to share my story fast enough."
“The only person who can save you is you. This was going to be the thing that informed the rest of my life.” – Sheryl Crow
"[Rewind to June.] Just a month before my surgery, a mutual friend would reconnect me with Jen after almost 10 years. We had first met when our then-infant sons were in daycare together. Not only had she just undergone the same surgery a few months before, but she had the same surgeon. Once she heard the news, our friend gave her my number and she called me that day. We talked for an hour as if we were besties. Before and after surgery, Jen became my primary support system. Not only did she very candidly share the details of her own surgery and recovery, she sent me her most comfortable bras (because the ones the hospital gives you are itchy), her favorite smelling candle and the most relaxing bath salts – all of which she hoped would help me like they helped her. She responded to my panicked post-surgery text messages at 1AM. She calmed my fears and eased my mind. She told me things no doctor would – or could. She knew what I was going through which made her the most qualified person to support me. She was also the only person who came to see me in the hospital aside from my family (as per my request). It happened by chance on the day of her follow-up appointment, just one flight down from my room. I know in my heart of hearts it happened for a reason. She didn’t know whether I had been discharged yet. Something told her that I was still upstairs...and something told me she was the one visitor I really needed to see. We were both right. The connection two people can feel in times like these can be simply indescribable. When she knocked on my door and peeked her head in, my heart swelled and we both started to cry. I remember trying to tell her about the pain I was in, how I was feeling, what I was thinking and how scared I was (something to which I didn’t openly admit). The lump in my throat bigger than my ability to speak. She just held my hands in hers and said, 'I know, Meggan. I know.' She showed me that I wasn’t alone on this horrible, painful, scary ride. Then, she told me that I’d be OK…and so I believed her."
“When women support other women, incredible things happen.” – Unknown
"There are few things in this world for which I’m more grateful. How will all of these women ever know what they’ve done for me? Piece by piece, each of them helped to build up my coat of armor in preparation for the battles I would soon face. From meals, gifts and care packages to support, love and encouragement, I had exactly what I needed. I was determined to repay them all for what they had done, I just didn’t know how. Not long after my surgery, it was Jen who said to me, 'One day, there will be a woman who will find herself in your shoes. Be there for her, just as I’ve been there for you. That’s all you have to do. It will make a difference.' Two months would pass before I’d learn that 'that woman' would be my big sister who carries the same gene mutation. She is 4 years older than me and has always supported me in every single thing I’ve done in my life. (Talk about care packages – you should have seen hers which probably cost more than my car to ship from CT to SC.) So, it only seems fitting that I’d find myself paying it forward to my very own sister. Jen set the bar pretty high, so I hope I’m even half as successful. Time will tell. My sister’s surgery is in 2 months."
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker T. Washington
"For every woman who supported me, there was a woman - or women - who had supported her, too…and so on and so on. All of it was made possible by the simple act of sharing their stories. I say 'simple,' but it’s not always. To share your story, you have to be vulnerable and candid about things you never before imagined yourself revealing. It means putting aside any fears of being embarrassed or judged in hopes of spreading more awareness. It’s this awareness that can empower men and women to not only learn about genetic testing, but gain the support they need in order to reclaim their futures. It all starts with sharing. So, that’s what I’m doing and that’s what I’ll continue to do. Will my breasts ever be the same? No, they won’t. For that I’m grateful."
-- Megs1234, tested positive for BRCA2 genetic mutation
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