I stood alone. Bruised and flat-chested. Praying to have made the right decision. A casual office visit. A simple genetic test. A percentage of numbers had jump-started an amazingly wonderful, scary rollercoaster ride as I settled into life after a preventative mastectomy. As I looked in the mirror, I considered what I had lost. Gone were the breasts with which I nursed my daughter, the breasts that my grandmother and I celebrated once they budded from “nubbins,” the breasts that made me look like a million bucks in my favorite sorority shirt. Gone.
In my loss, I didn’t consider that I had gained something more valuable … peace. Gone is the fear of finding a lump as I examine my breasts in the shower each month. Gone is the apprehension I felt as I impatiently waited for the results of my annual mammogram. Gone is the anxiety I experienced as I helplessly awaited my turn at breast cancer, like an inevitable rights of passage … like my mother in the past (twice!) and my sister in the present. Breast cancer has stripped moments of happiness from our family, unfortunately, but it has also birthed this beautiful tapestry of strength, courage and resilience.
Being genetically tested and learning I have the BRCA gene mutation led me to take action and have preventive surgeries, and that has been one of the scariest and most fulfilling decisions of my life. There have been good days and bad days … up days, down days. “You are killing the game!” days have been promptly followed by “This pretty much sucks!” days. And I have learned to take every last bit of it with a measure of relief and gratitude. I have watched the very best parts of myself unfold. I have uncovered my voice and a passion to enrich, inspire, and spread the word about the importance of genetic testing, especially for women of color so that we might see ourselves represented, lest we think this option is not for us.
Surgery isn’t for everyone … but knowledge is a game changer! Being tested and knowing the results allows for consistent and thorough monitoring, and early detection of breast/ovarian cancer can save your life! I would love to share more of my story with you. I am committed to spreading awareness in whatever measure; hoping my tiny spark will ignite a roaring fire.
KELLIE is a married, mother of two, BCRA1 previvor and the daughter of a two-time breast cancer survivor. Kellie recently had a mastectomy and a hysterectomy (2/21/2018) and is excited to be on the other side of recovery. She enjoys traveling, thrift shopping and sharing her experiences via her blog (browngirlandbrcaplus.com) and Instagram. Kellie initiated BROWN GIRL AND BRCA PLUS to spread awareness about the importance of genetic testing and offer a view of the BRCA experience from a person of color’s perspective.