The Journey

Just knowing where to look is a challenge many women face. I was shocked at my diagnosis of ovarian cancer as, like many women, I was symptom free. Although I was blessed throughout my journey, nothing was straightforward. It was hard to understand where I fit in staging as I presented like an early case, yet I had one lymph node that tested positive for cancer cells. I had no family history of breast or ovarian cancer (except an aunt on my father’s side who had breast cancer), yet I intuitively felt I was BRCA positive. I pushed for the BRCA test as the cancer was not following the usual pattern and I knew ovarian cancer was rare at my age. I asked three times before I was given the test.

I was BRCA positive.

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One of the most difficult challenges was the inconsistency in information I received from physicians. All were well meaning, but physicians have biases just like everyone else. I learned to ask for what I believed was important for my own well being, even when it met with resistance from my doctors. Often that resistance was because something was unfamiliar to them rather than unsafe. I underwent a hysterectomy and staging in a laparoscopic surgery but I was not told this was even an option until I stumbled upon it at the last minute. It was grace that led me to Dr. Pedro Ramirez, a renowned surgeon in the field of minimally invasive surgery.

I was told I would be ER/PR positive and that testing was unnecessary. I pushed for the test, and I was negative. This was another indicator of BRCA. This allowed me to have bio identical hormone replacement since I was not close to menopause when I was diagnosed.

I was offered the opportunity to have my tumor mapped by a dear friend, Dr. Laura Shawver, of The Clearity Foundation in San Diego. An ovarian cancer survivor herself, Laura made sure I was able to learn everything possible about my tumor. I was relieved to know that it followed a classic BRCA profile and responded well to most chemo agents.

Having the BRCA mutation meant that ovarian cancer was more curable, but now I had an 87% risk for breast cancer. I learned I was BRCA positive at the end of my 5th chemo treatment and immediately decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy. Once again, I met opposition from physicians who advised against it, telling me to “wait until I got breast cancer” and then found myself defending my need for a ‘beautiful’ outcome to the plastic surgeons who were supposed to help me. I finally found my way to Dr. Pat Maxwell, the world’s expert in breast reconstruction, Dr. Maxwell understood my risk of breast cancer and my desire to come through the surgery feeling whole and confident with the visual result. --- I LOVE my breasts---post mastectomy---

I pray that sharing my story will encourage you to stand for what you believe will be best for you in your journey. I made this journey, crawling many times along the way, and realize I have been blessed deeply. I praise God for his faithfulness and hope you will find blessings unfolding as you proceed.

May God go with you,

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