FIGHT LIKE A GIRL
FIGHT LIKE A GIRL
First of all, here's a link to my recipe to learn how to make a F.L.A.G.
While I was battling breast cancer in 2019, during the worst of it I realized I needed to share what I had learned with as many people far and wide as possible. I did not know how easily available genetic testing currently was until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. If I had I know I would have prevented my cancer. The technology and affordability of testing is improving quickly. If I would have been told genetic testing is readily available, affordable and easy to do... I definitely would have prevented my cancer. Alas, hind sight is always 20-20. Today you can order your at home test kit for $250 by going to Invitae. Never allowing cancer to enter your body is the way to go. This may sound drastic as you first read my story, but I assure you after seeing my mom and other friends fight cancer and lose, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and for your family. When my mom passed I had been by her side for her losing battle for 13 years, one third of my life...
Did you know that 10% of breast cancer is preventable today, right now? I am a breast cancer survivor, my sister is a preventer, and we both watched my mom lose her fight. I have researched every option for a woman with breast cancer in the US, and I believe most developed nations are using these same developments, which in the last 15 years are quite miraculous (thank you UCSF and others). You may not have seen a skin saving, nipple sparing double mastectomy with your own eyes but I can tell you firsthand that it’s amazing. My breasts are 100% fake but they are seriously beautiful, even more beautiful than I can believe! This surgery can prevent cancer from entering your body to begin with, and if you have health insurance you're golden. There are many blood vessels that run through the breasts, and the breast also drains to the lymphatic system. The current method of waiting until a lump arrives means waiting until cancer is in your body and possibly entering your blood stream and lymph-nodes and then removing or shrinking, then removing. This might work for me and for others who have cancer, the word I dislike here is might. It’s not 100% certain it's going to work. I prefer better odds than that for my life. I’m guessing you might too, for yourself and for your loved ones.
10% of breast cancer is genetic. Genetic testing tells us a lot, it gives us statistics. You know you are at risk when your grandma, mom and aunt all have breast cancer, but what if it comes from your Dad's side? If you test positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations then you know exactly what the odds are for getting this terrible disease. For me it was an 87% chance. When the gene has yet to be identified, we don’t know your odds. For either of these cases, whether an identified or unidentified gene mutation, you can get a double mastectomy like I described above. I call it a "free" boob job. That’s an exaggeration, there will be deductibles/copays of course. You should have some sort of health coverage (I recommend checking on yours before getting genetic testing). Your “free” boob job will likely require refreshers every 10 years or so but the good news is that you won’t have breast tissue that turns into cancer. You will still have your skin, nipple and gorgeous breasts and most importantly, your life. If you don’t have the BRCA gene you will have to push your healthcare provider but I’ve been told they will do it if you have family members who have gotten breast cancer. The BEST treatment for cancer is prevention, end of story. Catching it early is of course important and very helpful as well. I did self exams everyday because I was told I didn’t have enough family history for the genetic test. But, my intuition told me something different. My family is very small with both of my parents only children, so I didn’t have a big pool for history. I listened to my intuition and I now have a 95% chance of living through this. If I would have known about the current state of genetic testing, I would never have gotten cancer, I would have signed myself up for the preventative mastectomy. Keep reading if you are BRCA, or if you have hormone receptive kinds of breast cancer in your family, and you have not yet decided to proactively get the “free” boob job.
When my mother Carol was 57 years old she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. I was two weeks from finishing my BA when all my plans and dreams slipped away. I quickly changed what I thought was my ‘perfect plan’ to move home to beautiful Sonoma County to help care for her. Life had other plans for me.
With Fight Like A Girl the goal is to share information about genetics and breast cancer. My mom fought bravely and without a complaint for the last 13 years of her life. She was as tough as nails, with style and grace to spare — that was Carol Delaney.
My sister also wants to share her story as there is another topic that arises with this surgery. The interesting difference between me (cancer survivor) and Shannen (without cancer) is that even after the surgery, she will continue having normal hormones for her brain, heart and bone health. She will not have to start menopause at 41. The reason my chance for survival of the aggressive type of cancer I had is so high is because I got lucky. The type of tumor that grew is receptive to hormones. Many women do not get that good news. This means that if some of those cancer cells are still in my body, they like hormones for growth. So all I have to do is block my hormones for the rest of my life and it won’t come back. No topical hormones, nada. My life will not be what it was. Hot flashes are one thing but the prolonged life without hormones will weaken my heart, my bones and scariest of all, my mind. I’m a pilot. I’m a lot of things. A life of a 40 year old with the brain of a 60 year old isn’t too exciting. I’m not trying to complain, however I do want to share this reality. Menopause is here for me, at 41.
So please, order the test from Invitae. Share the results with your healthcare provider. Take control of your story. Don’t just let breast cancer happen to you. I am lucky I will get to keep on living. But preventing early decline is what I'm trying to help you with here. Fight Like A Girl, be smart and negotiate your way into not having to fight cancer at all.