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I am Because My Mom Was

June 07, 2024

I am Because My Mom Was

by Maggie Wickman 

Growing up, the BRCA1 mutation was always talked about in my house. I knew about it from a very early age, and I saw my mom endure preventive surgeries way before I knew the significance of how it would affect me one day. 

On July 8, 2020, I got the results back from my genetic testing: I was BRCA1-positive. I had just moved to a new state, away from my family, and knew this would be a long journey. I started screening once per year and was told not to worry too much since I was so young.  

Fast forward to August 17, 2021, two days before my 23rd birthday. During my mammogram, they discovered a lump that an MRI and biopsy confirmed to be a benign tumor. I remember my doctor holding my hand when she gave me the results. While the lump was benign, it was a red flag because I was so young. I had just started graduate school, so I opted for screening every three months until I graduated and could have preventive surgery. 

I remember scouring the internet to find women with similar stories, so I could feel less isolated. I found only a handful until I got connected with FORCE. I participated in FORCE events while growing up, as my mom has been actively involved for years. It’s ironic that I was so involved before I even knew I had a mutation or how it would significantly change my life in the future. FORCE provided me with hope that life would be okay. 

On November 30, 2022, I did what was quite possibly the bravest thing I’ve ever done: A single 25-year-old, I underwent a preventive double mastectomy and first-stage reconstruction with tissue expanders. Not only did my surgery come at a truly chaotic time in my life (graduating from full-time grad school, studying for my boards, interviewing for jobs and moving out of state), but it genuinely flipped my world upside down. On February 2, 2023, I had a second surgery to take my expanders out and replace them with implants. I didn’t start the grieving process until after that second surgery.  

I spent time grieving my old body. My old life. My old thoughts about breastfeeding my future children. Grieving the fact that I would have to explain my story to people while trying to date and hope they would accept it. Grieving the fact that not everybody supports the decision I made. Grieving that my life was forever changed because of this.  

I also spent time being incredibly thankful. Thankful that even though I can’t breastfeed my future kids, my surgery increased the chances of me being around long enough to watch them grow up. Thankful that friends and family helped pick up the pieces of my life. Thankful for two parents who dropped everything to take care of me and held me up when I wanted to fall. Thankful that I had been educated through FORCE and provided with a support group of women who had gone through what I did. Thankful that I had the choice over my body to protect myself. Thankful that my mom was brave enough to introduce me to FORCE at such a young age and provide me with all the knowledge about really, really hard things. And thankful that I now get to share my story across platforms to show other women they can do hard things. 

I ended up having a revision surgery on April 22, 2024. It felt like a full-circle moment as my surgeon was the same one who did my mom’s double mastectomy some 15 years before. We always joke that at this point, he’s a part of our family. I will forever be thankful that my mom introduced me to FORCE and both of my parents stood behind me 100 percent during every decision I made. I hope that one day, I can be half the mom she was–that’s some big shoes to fill. 

I am because my mom was. 

Posted in: Stories , Previvor
Tags: Hereditary Cancer , BRCA1 , Previvor

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