By Ashley Dedmon
I learned of my mutation at age 22
I was just 22 when I learned I was BRCA positive. My mother had been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer and, unfortunately, lost her four-year battle with the disease at the young age of 52.
Shortly after my mother lost her life to breast cancer, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 53. He elected to have his prostate removed and is currently doing well. He is one of my greatest supporters and was there for me as I struggled with the fear of believing that I was next to develop cancer. I always felt that the odds were stacked against me, having been born into three generations of women affected by breast cancer.
Genetic counseling and testing may have saved my life
Experiencing the pain of losing my mother and watching my father deal with cancer moved me into action. My gynecologist suggested genetic counseling and testing and it was not surprising that I tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation. I believe that this simple blood test not only saved my life, but it empowered me and helped me find the knowledge I needed to make informed medical decisions for myself.
My surgery journey
I found FORCE and I felt as if all the pieces fell into place. I met others who were going through similar experiences and I didn’t feel alone. I began working with a high-risk oncologist, and in order to stay on top of things, I began rotating ultrasounds, mammograms, MRIs and transvaginal ultrasounds. After a 10 year journey of surveillance, my husband and I decided that we needed to explore other preventive options. In December 2016, I underwent a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, followed by reconstruction in March 2017.
At the time of my surgery, I was physically ready. I listened to my doctors. I had been living an active and healthy lifestyle, so I recovered quickly. However, I was not ready for the emotional impact of my decision. I have always been a confident woman, but I began to question my womanhood. Would I still be beautiful? Would I still feel like a woman? Would my husband still be attracted to me?
I realized these were normal feelings and that I was putting undo pressure on myself. My husband loved me and he loved my body. With the love and support from family, friends and my faith, I was reminded that my body and my breasts did not define me. My strength, character and self-worth defined who I was as a person and as a woman.
Today, I have learned to embrace my scars. I know I made the right decision and know that I have been gracefully broken and rebuilt with strength. I now have a daughter and another baby on the way and I have no regrets. I am grateful to be living as a healthy previvor.
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