The BRCA Diaries Vol 1

BRCA.  The "breast cancer gene" or the "Angelina Jolie gene".  I've got it, as does my mom and one of my maternal Aunts. 

The best way I can describe it, is this genetic mutation prevents my body from correcting cells that are broken... cells that will turn into cancer.  

So, a women in the general population has an 8% risk for Breast Cancer, and 3% risk for Ovarian cancer in her lifetime... My risks are much much higher.  It's not really a matter of IF I may develop one of these cancers, but more like WHEN.  And that's not ok with me.  Imagine if you flipped a coin and that was your chance of getting cancer... except its really higher than 50%. 

I found this out in 2014, based on my family history, my OB Dr. David (or her PA, I can't remember now) suggested I do genetic testing.... and lucky me, I was positive. 

When she told me I should have a hysterectomy and mastectomy, I politely told her fuck no.

Between 2014 and 2016, I have had 4 Doctors and 1 Genetic Counselor's opinion on a plan of action.  All agreed. During that time, I underwent surveillance... twice yearly ultrasounds of my ovaries, twice yearly blood tests of my CA125 level, and yearly breast MRIs and Mammograms. In 2016, I decided to go ahead with surgeries.  I was still nursing Beau at that point, and needed to wait at least 6 months after I was done nursing to begin with the Breast surgeries.  

In December, 2017, I underwent a bi-lateral salipingo-oopharectomy + hysterectomy... basically all of my female reproductive organs have been removed, putting me into surgical menopause at 32 years old. It was a pretty easy recovery - I was back at normal life about a week later.  I wear an estrogen patch that I change every 3 1/2 days.  It's saved my sanity and made me feel like a normal person again.

Monday Feb 19, I underwent a bilateral mastecomy + immediate reconstruction.  This was a rough one. My boobs... I love them. Always have... I was even a Hooter's girl ya know. :)  Then, motherhood happened... and breastfeeding changed my life.  I nursed for 40 months between the two.  And now, they are just...gone.

Let me just tell you that this is not a boob job, and if I hear anyone say it is, I may lose my shit.

I underwent a 5 to 6 hour surgery.  My breast surgeon, Dr. Keto, started on one side, removing all breast tissue (except skin and nipples, as I opted to keep them, although there is a chance of necrosis), and then my plastic surgeon Dr. Van Pelt inserted hard plastic expanders under my pectoral muscles.  I have a great incision directly under my (former) breast area, so once it's all done, it shouldn't be noticeable. So right now, 4 days post op.... my boobs look totally fucked. They are lumpy, my skin is saggy and I am in a lot of pain.  I'll go every week or so to have the expanders filled, which will fill out my skin back to normal, and continue to stretch the muscle.  Once the expanders are filled to my desired size, then I wait 4 months and will have implants put in. 

My support system is amazing through this, and I'm hanging in there. 

Peace & Love,
Julie

 

Julie Burrell