Mandi Seifert was 3 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 Mandi’s mom -- in 2010 her mother tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation. Mandi knew that meant she had a 50-50 chance of having the same mutation. In 2013, 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 tummy area. Mandi is one of three women whose stories are featured in the Breastcancer.org video series on genetic testing, prophylactic surgery, and reconstruction. Mandi’s older sister, Kerry, also tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation and is also in the video series.
Listen to the podcast to hear Mandi discuss:
- how talking about her surgery with her sister was both emotional and freeing
- how it felt to see her reconstructive surgeon again after she was completely healed
- how her sister’s experience helped guide her
- why family support is so important
Running time: 9:02
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Show Full Transcript
Jamie DePolo: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Breastcancer.org podcast. My name's Jamie DePolo. I'm the senior editor at Breastcancer.org. Today's guest is Mandi Seifert, 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.
Mandi Seifert was 3 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 Mandi's mom. In 2010, her mother tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation.
Mandi knew that meant she had a 50/50 chance of having the same mutation. In 2013, 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 tummy area. Mandy 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. Mandi, welcome to the podcast.
Mandi Seifert: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Jamie DePolo: So, tell me, what was your first thought when the folks from the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery asked you if you'd like to participate in the video?
Mandi Seifert: Well, I was definitely shocked, and then once it kind of all sunk in, very excited to be able to share my story, and share it along with my sister who went through the same thing, so. But definitely very excited and anxious to share our story and get it out there for women to hear.
Jamie DePolo: You didn't have any hesitation, any sort of nervousness, about participating?
Mandi Seifert: I mean, definitely when my sister and I started talking about it, just knowing that our journey would be out there for the world to definitely hear. And it did cause some anxiousness, but also excitement to be able to share our story and kind of get it out there.
Jamie DePolo: The idea, maybe, that if somebody else in your position could see a similar story, it would be helpful, reassuring?
Mandi Seifert: Yup, definitely, and if we know we could just help at least one person, I mean, it would be amazing, so yeah, definitely.
Jamie DePolo: Now, what did the rest of your family think? Both you and Kerry are in the video, your mom was diagnosed and treated, so this is clearly a subject that's very personal to your family.
Mandi Seifert: I think that they were right along shocked that we were chosen, you know, out of so many women that have gone through this. But they were so very supportive and helpful to get us down to New Orleans, to take care of my son, and they were just amazing. Very good support system, we have.
Jamie DePolo: That's great. When you were considering your prophylactic surgery and then reconstruction, I know Kerry, your sister, went through the procedures before you, so obviously you had her as a reference and an information resource. But did you seek out any other information? I mean, did you look at photos? I'm wondering, would a video like the one that you two are in now, would that have been helpful for you at the time, or did you see anything like that?
Mandi Seifert: This video that we are in and that we did would've definitely been very beneficial for me to kind of get a glimpse of what I would go through or what the possibilities are. But definitely when I was trying to figure out, in that year span, what I would be going through, I mean, like I said, I only really had pictures. So, a video like we were in would've been very helpful, I think.
Jamie DePolo: When you were actually talking about your story on camera, how did you feel? Did it bring up a lot of emotions of, sort of -- I know some women who have gone through both the prophylactic surgery and then reconstruction or breast cancer treatment talk about it, it's almost like a PTSD-type of situation where you're immediately kind of thrown back into that time period?
Mandi Seifert: There was definitely a point when my sister and I were sharing our stories, it brought me back to the moment, and it was hard. It was definitely hard sharing it and saying it out loud to someone, because you definitely keep all those feelings kind of hidden. And to put it out there for everyone to hear, definitely, is very emotional, and I think, you know, not speaking for my sister, but I think both of us felt very just, at the end of it all, just drained almost, just because we got so emotional. We were brought back to that place and time. But I think it was also freeing, too, in the same sense. I don't know if that makes much sense unless you're put into that position, but definitely a very, very sensitive time that we were brought back to.
Jamie DePolo: Were the emotions as strong, even just talking about it again, as they were then? Did you have any different kinds of emotions?
Mandi Seifert: I think they were more intense, just like really thinking back to what we all went through and how it not only affected us, but our whole family -- and again, my son at the time, thankfully he was young enough not to know, really, what was going on, but to definitely just really think about all of the things we went through, you know, it was hard. Yeah. It was definitely hard, so. And even hearing some of the things my sister talked about was really just -- I don't know what the word is, really, but it just really brought out a lot of emotions in me that I didn't know I had until that time.
Jamie DePolo: Was there one part of making the video that kind of stands out for you when you look back at the experience that that's the first thing you think about?
Mandi Seifert: I mean, there was a couple of different times. But I think the most was seeing Dr. DellaCroce again, and being able to see him when we were both 100% feeling better, and just to let him know how he did such a wonderful job and his staff, too, just making us feel so comfortable and glad that we chose them to have our surgeries there. But definitely seeing him and then just being able to share our stories, I think, was definitely memorable, a memorable time being down there.
Jamie DePolo: And just for anybody who's listening, Dr. DellaCroce is the surgeon who did Mandi's reconstruction. You were young when you had this surgery. You were 26? Is that right?
Mandi Seifert: Yes. Yeah. That would be correct.
Jamie DePolo: And you were single, a single mom, so that's a lot to go through at a very young age. Do you have any insights or advice for other women who perhaps are at that age and know that a parent has a gene mutation, are thinking about genetic testing, and then perhaps, if they've tested positive, making decisions about surgery?
Mandi Seifert: Definitely research your options and use your family's support as much as you can. I know that's what I did, and I know I had my sister there to kind of guide me, but definitely don't keep it bottled in. Make sure you reach out to people. Do your research, and hopefully you come across videos now of people speaking about their journeys. But just know that you can get through it, and there's no stopping you. If you have a family that supports you, nothing, nothing, is out of your reach.
Jamie DePolo: Great. Mandi, thank you so much. We really appreciate your time doing the podcast. We greatly appreciate your time being in the video. And again, I just can't say anything else but thank you. It was so amazing and you two, you and Kerry, I think it's going to help a lot of people.
Mandi Seifert: I hope it does, and I thank you all for being so wonderful during this whole process, and I hope that this goes a long way for someone. And yeah, I just thank you all, as well.