By: Christina Pacitti
I’m 34 and live in Edinburgh with my partner, our 2 kids and our dog.
After my mum’s cousin passed away from ovarian cancer in 2015, the women on my maternal side were invited for genetic testing. After a negative result for both my mum and Nanna, I tested positive for the faulty BRCA1 gene. We then went on to discover that I had actually inherited the faulty gene from my dad, it just so happened to be coincidence that the gene was present on both sides of my family.
Finding out my genetic results was difficult to take to say the least. My mind went into a frenzy of what ifs and worst case scenarios and this immense guilt that the kids may have to go through this when they’re older. At that time, the children were 3 and 5 so all I could think of was being here for them. After a lot of researching the various options, I felt surgery was the best route for me. I knew I couldn’t deal with the anxiety of annual screening, waiting for the day they’d say, “We’ve found something”.
My first surgery was 6 months after my genetic results. I had lipomodelling to transfer fat from my thighs and stomach to my breasts in preparation for my mastectomy. 3 months later I had my double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction and lipomodelling again. Physically, I healed well and relatively quickly, I shared my scars with the world 4 weeks after surgery. Pain eased and bruises faded but it was the mental and emotional pain of trying to process all that was happening that I struggled with. I began to write a blog whilst I was going through my surgeries as I wanted to catalogue my journey and show the kids when they are older https://mybrcalife.wordpress.com/.
It was like my therapy. That, along with group sessions at Maggies and 1-2-1 counselling sessions, another BRCA sister and I held regular meet-ups for women in similar situations. We met women who were at different stages of their BRCA journeys and spending time with them was wonderful as we all understood each other and took comfort knowing we were not alone. I also became an ambassador for Ovarian Cancer Action, actively fundraising and raising awareness about the BRCA gene.
6 months on from my mastectomy, I was back in theatre again – This time to replace my right implant due to the initial pocket being too small and causing pain and discomfort, with another round of lipomodelling. That summer we went on our first family holiday as a family of 4 and I was anxious about bearing my scars in a bikini but actually, found it quite liberating! Shortly after we returned, a friend of mine put me in touch with a client of hers. She had been through breast cancer and was looking to create a brand of beautiful post surgery lingerie for women just like us. She asked me to model for her and I’ve been part of the LoveRose family since! Becoming a part of LoveRose came along just at the perfect time, when I was finally beginning to love myself again. You can see their beautiful collection here: https://www.loveroselingerie.com/
I had my final surgeries in late 2017 which were further lipomodelling with nipple revision and removal of my fallopian tubes in October 2017. I will have my ovaries removed when I am in my early to mid 40’s, this is a decision my surgeon and I agreed on. It’s not what’s routinely offered as usually ovaries would be removed at the same time however; due to my age we opted to remove ovaries at a later date. This surgery was probably the most difficult to process emotionally. I am blessed to already have two children but having to make the decision to remove the ability to have any more was a rough one.
Since my surgeries, I’ve had the odd lump which I’ve had to go back and get checked, I had biopsies taken earlier this year but thankfully all is well. Even after having the risk-reducing surgeries, it doesn’t remove the anxiety 100% – that’ll always be there in the background I guess.
I am however, eternally grateful to have been armed with the knowledge to change my story.