Previvor Life - My Secret Legacy
Becoming a previvor has been a journey for me, and it didn't end with the surgery – that was just the beginning of a personal transformation. I'm living as an ordinary girl who happens to be BRCA+. I’m a 38-year-old living with the aftermath of a preventative double mastectomy, and I'm preparing for a preventative hysterectomy within the next year - life has its moments. My emotional state has been a mix of joy and self-satisfaction, but when the thought of my next surgery crosses my mind, my stress levels rise.
Anxiety often sits in wait in the background of my mind. The more obvious triggers are the surveillance procedures that have become part of my routine. There are blood tests and scans combined with MRI'S and consultations. I am very aware that a lot of surveillance will decrease after I remove my ovaries, so perhaps there will be an overall reduction in anxieties.
While I will do the surgery to reduce my cancer risk, the idea of menopause under 40 is frightening. There are the medical statistics, and several kind-faced doctors that have attempted to guide me, but ultimately, this is a personal choice that I need to make. The statistics only help so far, as much remains unknown about the management of surgical menopause in women under 40. I'm still in the process of educating myself about the latest recommendations and will be doing so until they wheel me into the operating room.
I look forward to sharing my findings.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at an event, "Women for Women." This evening was one of several occasions where I have been invited as a result of publishing my book, "I'm a Previvor – My Secret Legacy," a memoir detailing both my mother's cancer journey and my experience as a BRCA positive woman. The memoir follows the preparation and recovery of my preventative double mastectomy, a procedure that has enabled me to avoid the same fate as my mother, who sadly lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 48.
I was pleasantly surprised at the impact my talk had on members of the audience that evening. The very fact that I was standing on a stage discussing my mastectomy with confidence and joy had its purpose before I even began to speak. Standing nervously adjusting the mic and glancing down over the sea of eager faces, my mind clicked into focus; I could save a life tonight. Relaxed, my breathing slowed, and my hands stopped shaking. I spoke about preventative surgery and how my mother was not so fortunate to live now in this time of genetic wonders. I emphasized the vital role mammograms and regular checkups play in the early diagnosis of breast cancer and a better long-term prognosis.
Major celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate are openly discussing their mastectomy surgery, bringing the discussion into the mainstream media, where it can reach millions of women. Christina now plays the role of a woman who had also had a preventative double mastectomy in the new Netflix Show, "Dead to Me." While celebrities have glitz and glam, all I have are my words as an ordinary woman, faced with the extraordinary opportunity to take control of my destiny.
My eyes filled with tears of joy as I read messages of how members of the audience went and booked overdue mammograms, ultrasounds, and genetic testing. The conversations continued, and I learned how one woman received a breast cancer diagnosis. We had a brief chat that resulted in more tears of joy on both sides as she explained that although a small mass had been discovered, it was early enough not to require chemotherapy.
It wasn't the celebs that motivated her to get checked – it was me. It doesn't matter how ordinary I felt, my words were more powerful than Angelina Jolie's to this woman, and it may have saved her life.
The conversation concluded with her statement of sheer gratefulness that my words were inspiring and motivated her to make that appointment the next morning. Words are powerful; words can save lives; words can make a difference.
Leanne Kaye – "With Love & Laughter"