By: Nicole Martino
My name is Nicole Martino, 33, and a single parent to an amazing 9-year-old boy who is my #1 supporter. Completely unaware of any BRCA connection for many years, even after my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 90’s at the age of 32. My sister fought to have genetic testing done in 2010, even with our Ashkenazi heritage, and family history of breast cancer on both sides.
It was a sad day, my sister ended up testing positive of a BRCA2 founder mutation. One month later, my mother and I tested positive for the same BRCA mutation. With that, two days later I found out I was nine weeks pregnant. My sister and mother underwent their prophylactic bilateral mastectomies in late 2010. Unfortunately, Mayo Clinic found ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) stage 1 during my mother’s surgery.
Fast-forward to 2016, after having a few biopsy scares and continuous preventive screening. I wanted to be proactive before cancer was an issue.
So here I am today, telling you my story of how I dodged the bullet, and continue to remain healthy. I underwent the knife in January 2016, with a major surgery that removed all my breast tissue (prophylactic bilateral mastectomy) and followed with a year of reconstruction, which included more surgery. Super emotional, but worth every ounce of pain. My prophylactic bilateral mastectomy was above the muscle with nipple-sparing. “Did I get to keep my nipples?” These were the first words that came out of my mouth after I left the operating room.
Acknowledging my new breasts was not only mentally but physically exhausting. Six long months of expansion, three saline fills later, and a few cup sizes bigger. Posted below is a photo of me, the day I returned home after my initial surgery in January 2016. You can see my vacuum sealed foam bra, four Jackson-Pratt drains, and a big smile. June 2016, I exchanged my expander implants to silicone implants with fat grafting, which left me looking like one big bruise. Luckily, no major issues during my exchange, just very uncomfortable.
In conclusion, I am fortunate to have many positive supporters, a great care team at Mayo Clinic, and a plan of care for all my future preventive procedures. This mutation has literally shaped me into the woman I am today.
Remember, life is tough, but so are you.