Take a look inside the life of Paige More, 26, after she underwent a preventative double mastectomy in January 2017 after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation.
hen I agreed to get tested for the BRCA1 gene mutation at age 22, I didn’t completely understand what I was doing.
I knew my dad’s family had a history of both breast and ovarian cancer, and my grandmother, great-grandmother and great-aunt had all died from these diseases. But when I learned I also had it, I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t process it. I’d just moved to NYC to pursue a career as a TV producer, and work was all I could think about.
Finally, about a year later, I saw an oncologist. What she said woke me up — she told me I had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer in my lifetime. She explained my options, which included intensive surveillance or a more extreme measure — a preventative double mastectomy. Nothing has ever scared me in my life. I’m a daredevil — I’ve spent my life sky diving, cliff jumping, and surfing — but for the first time ever, I was truly scared.
It felt like my body was no longer mine, and that it was inevitable that I would get cancer. I knew I needed to have that double mastectomy. My oncologist had explained it would reduce my risk of breast cancer to less than five percent, and I wanted to feel like a warrior not a worrier. I knew I wanted to be a “previvor,” someone who prevents cancer or a survivor of a predisposition to cancer.
I took some time to make my final decision, but eventually I went back to my oncologist and scheduled my surgery. Those 90 days waiting for my operation were the longest days of my life. I’m a private person, so I didn’t tell anyone except for my parents, sisters, and my boyfriend Justin.
When I looked online for resources and support for women like me, I came up pretty empty-handed. Everything was so scary and negative that I closed my computer. I felt completely isolated, like no one understood this decision I was making. So I filled up my time instead by exercising, joining a gym and lifting weights three times a week. I wanted to make sure I went under the knife in the best shape possible, to aid in my recovery.
The day of my surgery I was shaking so hard I could barely fill out all the paperwork in the waiting room. When the nurse told me to say goodbye to my family, I collapsed in Justin’s arms bawling. But he whispered to me that I had this — I could do it. I was strong, and I was ready.
I walked toward the operation table looking up at all the lights, feeling like I was on the wrong side of a Grey’s Anatomy episode. The anesthesiologist held my hand and told me everything was going to be okay, and then the next thing I knew, I was waking up. The surgery was over.
|Read on: Chronicles of Courage: Life After My Preventative Double Mastectomy|