I agonized for years over whether to have a double mastectomy after I found out I have a BRCA2 mutation.
I couldn’t get past the idea that I would be removing my breasts to reduce my risk of a disease I didn’t have -- and may never get.
My book, Probably Someday Cancer: Genetic Risk and Preventative Mastectomy, is about my struggle to decide whether to have what I could only call ‘The Surgery’ at the time (I couldn’t utter the word mastectomy).
One of the biggest sources of information, support and comfort during that time was Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), which plays a major role in my memoir. I spent countless hours on the FORCE message boards learning about PBMs, BSOs and foobs and flew to Orlando for one of the organization’s terrific annual conferences. I am so honored and thrilled that Sue Friedman, executive director and founder of FORCE, wrote the foreword to Probably Someday Cancer.
I was 41 when I found out about my BRCA2 mutation, the same age as my grandmother was when she died of breast cancer, leaving three devastated children. My son was only one year old and the thought of anything happening to me was terrifying.
I wanted to do whatever would give me the best odds of being around for my son. But which would give me the best chance at a long healthy life: a double mastectomy or frequent screenings to try to catch any cancer early? The answers weren’t black and white.
Probably Someday Cancer includes extensive research that guided me in my decision-making process. It
The book comes from the perspective of someone who has tried all of the recommended risk-reducing options, from chemoprevention to having my ovaries removed and facing surgical menopause, to increased breast surveillance. Finally, I pushed through my fear and anxiety and decided to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction with silicone implants – and received a surprising diagnosis that convinced me I made the right decision.
I hope my book can help anyone facing hereditary risk of breast and ovarian cancer feel less alone, face their own fears and make informed decisions to protect their health and end the devastation that hereditary cancer has caused for generations in so many families.
Probably Someday Cancer, winner of the book manuscript competition at the 2017 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, will be published by the University of North Texas Press on Feb. 27. I am excited to be publishing my first book. I spent 21 years as a journalist at publications including The Dallas Morning News and won numerous awards for my work, including a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.