Saturday, October 27, 2012

Double Mastectomies @ 20

Team Previve 2012

October is Breast Cancer awareness month, which is why you see the sea of PINK everywhere you turn– Athletics, TV Commercials, Magazines, Posters, Clothing, etc.   Actually it’s something that should be a monthly awareness, because 1 out of 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.   YES; 1 out of 8 --- those are some pretty high chances!  In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.  Please make sure you complete monthly self-breast exams, contact a physician immediately if you find a change.  DON’T WAIT!

Guys you might be thinking; “Oh that’s not something I have to worry about” – THAT’S INCORRECT!!  Your chances might not be as strong as a woman's, but about 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2011. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 
1 in 1,000.

Alyssa, Cara, JoAnn, Deb, & Jerry

If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you just might have the BRCA gene, which makes your chances even HIGHER whether you are a woman or man! 

 Would you rather take your chances and hope you never have to hear – "you have breast cancer"? Or would you like to know what your chances are of having the gene?  Yes, YOU do have a choice!!  Just like Aylssa did. You will have a chance to read her story momentarily.

To my knowledge there is no history of breast cancer in my family, but that didn’t stop me from getting a scare last year.  According to this new physician (my old physician closed his practice), my chances of breast cancer was higher due to the dosage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) I have been taking and the length of time on them. She made such a big deal of it that it freaked me out.  Of course right then and there I wanted to stop them all together, but was advised against that as well.   Then I found a lump in my right breast!!!  I was beside myself, but Jerry kept me level headed until we could get some test ran.  Fortunately we received good news, but that’s not always the case for everyone.   Like our friend Karen; who we keep in our prayers.  She recently received the news that she will need surgery on November 6th to have two lumps removed.  To our knowledge her family doesn’t have a history either!! 

JoAnn, Alyssa, Cara

Jerry and I participated in the “Race for the Cure” this year in memory of Jerry’s mom, and in celebration of his sister and niece – JoAnn Stroud and Cara Cawthon, and many others with breast cancer.  But for the first time; this year Alyssa Cawthon (Cara’s daughter) has her own team called – “PREVIVE” (a term coined for the young women positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes like herself).   


Alyssa, a 20 year young woman, has a powerful story and how breast cancer has affected her life from the age of 3.  Please take a moment to read her story below….

They say you don't get much sleep the night before your wedding day… Well, how about the night before your double mastectomies?

by Alyssa Blair Cawthon on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 9:27pm 

Yes, you read that right. Tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m. I will be undergoing the first of two surgeries involved in the double mastectomy with reconstruction process. Now, if you know what that is, you're probably thinking "Wait, so she has breast cancer?" But that's incorrect. My mastectomies are prophylactic, which means "preventative".  Because you see, for whatever reason, God allowed a little, tiny, cancerous gene, entitled BRCA1 to make its way into my body. When I was 18 I tested positive for BRCA1, just as my mother, and grandmother, and even great-grandmother did. I am fourth, maybe fifth, generation BRCA1 positive. So what does that mean? I have a 90-some odd-percent chance of acquiring breast cancer by the age of 26 years young.

At 3 years old, I watched both my mother and my grandmother walk the rigorous path that is chemo therapy. I watched their hair fall out and their skin bruise and their bodies grow weak. I sat on my mommy's lap as I witnessed an awful thing called breast cancer rob her of her job, and her energy and her Type A personality. Now, my mom is a beautiful survivor, and I admire her bravery and strength and perseverance. Her story has touched so many people's lives, and, ultimately, she beat breast cancer. But that doesn't mean that she's 100% healthy today. The radiation left her with a lot of diseases and scars. And as I grew up, I swore to myself I would never, ever sit in a chemo chair. 

In June of 2010, we scheduled the surgery for the upcoming January. But life got in the way, and we had to move it to May 2011. But then some more life happened and we crossed it off our calendars once again, and didn't set another official date. But just a short two months ago, I decided to finally set the date of March 29th - no excuses, no fears - and nothing was going to stop me. Although a fractured knee tried to interfere, and a little devil on my shoulder telling me that I wasn't strong enough reared his ugly head every day, the day has finally come. Am I terrified? Of course. Am I dreading the stitches, and the muscle expanders, and the hospital stays? Well, duh. But do I have to live with the constant fear and stress of waking up one morning with a mysterious lump, and knowing cancer has finally knocked on my door? 

ABSOLUTELY NOT!  And to me, that's all worth it. 

 Now, I didn't write this so people would feel sorry for me and send flowers to the hospital. I wrote this because I am hoping my experience could make a difference in somebody else's life. The beautiful and talented E! News anchor, Giuliana Rancic, just recently underwent this same exact surgery. Her courage and motivation and willingness to share her story so publicly is what pushed me over the edge to re-schedule the surgery, and knock it out once and for all. Now I know I don't have millions of twitter followers and beloved fans like she does, but I do have roughly six hundred Facebook friends. I might not be able to change the world, but maybe, I could help change one person's future.

Breast cancer is quickly becoming one of the most wide-spread cancers in the world. And once it hit's you, there is no official cure. But, there is now a way to keep it from hitting you at all. Girls, and guys alike, if breast cancer runs in your family on either side, GO GET TESTED to see if you carry the gene. I have consciously chosen to take my future into my own hands and be proactive, and you can too. God has allowed new technology and wonderful surgeons to help spare people of breast cancer and all of the ugly side effects it comes with, and nobody needs to take that for granted. I urge you to step up to the plate, and decide if you want to sit in a chemo chair or not. 
So tomorrow, around 1:00 p.m., I will come out of surgery without the weight of a hundred poisonous genes on my shoulders. I will be cancer free, for the rest of my life.

I'm a PRE- vivor, and I'm proud.


Although this is a serious matter; don't lose your sense of humor!!  :)

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