By: Taylor Cunningham
2 Corinthians 5:7. For we walk by faith, not by sight. I got this tattoo the night my mom had her first mastectomy; but let me back up to the beginning…
My mom was 50 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was a 20-year-old junior in college studying for my fall semester finals. She had her mastectomy in January 2013. The doctors recommended she have genetic testing done because her mother had died of breast cancer when she was 44 years old. Her test came back positive for the BRCA-2 genetic mutation. She had the other breast prophylactic mastectomy later that year. Her positive test meant that I needed to be tested because it is a dominant trait. By the time I was 21 years old, I found out I also had this genetic mutation which put me at a 70-80% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
I’ve been fairly diligent about having yearly MRIs (no radiation as compared to mammography), lab tests, and ultrasounds (because there is increased incidence of ovarian cancer as well). This year, they found a suspicious spot on my MRI which warranted a biopsy.
At 27 years old, I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ. This is a growth of cancer cells that do not invade outside of the ductal wall. It is considered stage 0 but, according to my biopsy report, I had a high nuclear grade, which meant it was a little faster growing. With my strong family history, age, and high risk, I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. I was planning on doing this prophylactically in the next decade or so, but this early cancer diagnosis sped up my timeline.
On December 2nd, this tattoo will remind me that things happen for a reason and we must trust that everything will be OK, regardless of what the situation looks like.
Currently, I am 28, have undergone bilateral mastectomies with reconstruction, had a negative sentinel node (no chemo needed🙌), am 5 weeks post-op and am ready to get back to normal life! I was just cleared today to “let pain be my guide” aka- back to the grind! I am so thankful for my doctors, nurses, ancillary staff, friends and family. I am a SURVIVOR.