By: Hope Garcia, AP, LMT
I have known for a long time I needed to be tested but I wasn’t ready. My grandmother passed away in her 40’s from breast cancer and at the time we did not know about the gene. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 60’s. Both breasts – 6 months apart – and had undergone chemotherapy and radiation. Even though I knew she had the gene, I did not want to know. I started having regular mammograms at 30.
Fast forward to over a decade later and my mother’s cancer came back. Now she is in her 70’s. It was very aggressive and they immediately sent her in for a double mastectomy. I never imagined it would come back. I did not know that could happen. I am now married with two kids. I was finally ready to get tested.
After 2 weeks, my results came back. A huge part of me believed it would be negative – it was only a 50% chance after all. I decided to go alone. My husband offered to come but I didn’t want him to waste his time on what I believed was going to be negative. I was wrong. I was in disbelief. So many emotions flooded through me. Even though I knew I didn’t have cancer, it sure felt like that was what the doctor was telling me.
I spent the next couple of months crying, researching, and finally meeting with a genetic counselor. I knew then without a doubt what I had to do. I decided to be proactive. After considering my family history, in addition to being BRCA 1 positive, I knew this was not a matter of “if” but rather “when”. I decided that I want to be here for my kids and I do not want them to see me go through treatments for cancer. I want them to learn about strength and the importance of taking action. I have a choice, unlike my grandmother or mom, who did not know or have the tools that I do. 5 months after getting my results I went in for a complete hysterectomy. I am now 3 months post-op and I feel great. I am planning to have my double mastectomy in a couple of months.
It is strange to think that a year ago I did not know; I was still not ready and that 8 months ago I felt paralyzed. I did not know what to do and I was terrified of surgery. Now I am terrified of not having surgery. Even more so considering everything going on right now. I keep hoping that my surgery will happen as planned. I AM ready. I know what I need and want to do. For me, this was the right decision. All of our journeys are different and I hope to inspire someone else as others have inspired me.