Marla Ruhana, St. Clair Shores, Michigan
Learned I was BRCA2 positive Autumn 2013, had bilateral simple mastectomies Dec 10, 2013 and opted for oophorectomy(BSO) 2/24/14. I feel so relieved!
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My sister is a breast ca survivor, dx when she was 38yo, 11yrs ago. I have felt tremendous anxiety and fear since her dx almost as if my intuition "knew" the BRCA dx. Back then, it was difficult to do genetic testing without my sister being tested too, she is not interested in being tested. My OB/GYN encouraged testing and he referred me to a breast surgeon but didn't give me any other resources. I am a social worker and emailed a physician friend at NIH/NCI who strongly encouraged genetic counseling w a card carrying genetic counselor! I began my search via the internet, found FORCE, and made an appt w genetic counselor at Beaumont Hospital. My husband was very supportive as were most of my family, friends and colleagues. I then learned two of my cousins were both BRCA2 positive, (one is a 5yr breast cancer survivor and her sister was BRCA2 positive as well), they were both extremely supportive! After meeting with genetic counselors, oncologists and breast surgeons, I decided to have prophylactic bilateral simple mastectomies. I was stunned when genetic counselors made genogram of our family and I saw the cancers carried under BRCA2 within several generations.
The hardest part of my journey
I was in crisis, I reached out for support and never expected what transpired... I have never felt so judged and felt blindsided by the reaction of some folks. I had an expectation they'd be supportive and they tried to be but I still felt judged. People said things like, "Are you just doing this because of Angelina Jolie?" "Are you sure you don't have cancer?" "You know what you're doing is really extreme?" "I think you're nuts, i'd never part with my breasts" "But you don't have cancer", These comments created a lot of unnecessary stress during a very difficult time. Emotionally, at the time, I did not have the energy to attempt to educate these folks on risk factors. It triggered my grief and made me miss my dad! I was shocked as many saw me as brave yet others saw me as insane! It instilled emotions I had never experienced before, yet made me empathize for minorities far more than I already do!
If I could do it over again
I would Absolutely do the Same Thing Over Again!! No pain with mastectomies as no lymph node involvement! LOVED my surgeon Dharti Sheth, MD! My incisions/scars look amazing as she knew I wasn't having reconstruction. I had DD breasts,I had no attachment to my breasts. I and am in awe how fast I am able to go on treadmill breast free and I feel free! Free of risks and literally lighter! It's great not to even wear sport's bra on treadmill! Land's End and Athleta clothing also for mastectomy and I am very happy with my new bathing suit!
My participation with FORCE
Reading the entire website was a tremendous comfort pre op and continues to be now! My husband and I met with my OB/GYN re ovaries and he recommended waiting until after menopause in a few years, then total hysterectomy.
I feel so empowered and blessed that I was given options as a result of genetic testing! My life has drastically changed and I have also learned to slow down! I am a psychotherapist in private practice and a professor in a university setting. I have been a workaholic and my family is always on the go. As I recovered from mastectomies, I realized I had not Ever been off work for more than two weeks since 1990?! It saddened me that it took surgery to slow down and actually be fully present visiting with company daily. That was a way of life for my grandparents, a lifestyle I observed as a child, and no one was ill or had surgery.
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