I was 12 years old when my life was forever changed by the word “cancer.” My oldest sister, Jenny, had been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia at age 22. She died 18 months later at the age of 24. I was 14. Nine years later my older sister, Maggie, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29. After a mastectomy she seemed to be “cancer free,” but nearly five years after her surgery, the cancer reemerged in her lymph nodes. Two years later, it spread to her lungs. After an incredible and devastating fight, my sister Maggie died at age 38, leaving her nearly five year old son motherless.
In 2000, I was blessed with the birth of my triplets, Colton, Jenny and Chris. As a new mother I couldn’t believe the pain my sister must have endured knowing she would not be there for her son. As a result, I decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy. My doctors (and my sister’s oncologist) supported my decision, as did my family and my wonderful husband, Cliff. In January 2002, one month after my triplets’ first birthday, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with implant reconstruction. It has been—by far—one of the best decisions of my life. Not only am I confident that I did everything I could to prevent my contraction of this disease, I look better than I ever did before!
I freely tell my story in hopes that any woman with a strong family history of breast cancer will consider the option of a prophylactic mastectomy. While I pray for a day when such a decision need not be made, it is, in the meantime, the most effective way to prevent ever hearing the words “you have breast cancer.”