I had been given a gift
On the weekend of my 26th birthday, my dad told me the news that he tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. He pulled out a letter and began to explain to me what he’d been up to (blood tests/mammograms) and that there was 50:50 chance of this being passed on to myself and my brother. I didn’t cry, just took on board what he told me and immediately made the decision to also get tested.
The test is a series of blood tests and talks with a genetic counsellor, they explain all the options available to you if the tests come back positive. After about 3 visits, the counsellor confirmed I had tested positive for BRCA1 gene mutation. I didn’t feel shocked; I didn’t feel sad - I felt lucky. From that day, I had been given a gift, something that so many men and women haven’t been given.
I was put a waiting list for Nottingham City Hospital and it was decided that I would have a breast reduction to start which would save parts of my breast followed by a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.
My first surgery, looking back, is a blip! All I can remember is being at home itching to get back to work as I wanted normality. Prior to surgery my surgeon advised me to moisturise, which I did every day. Along with this I was exercising and eating a well-balanced diet - which I stand by that hugely helped in my recovery!
In between my first and second surgery I made it my focus to be able to run 5k and after 2 months of practice I got there. I’d been given a gift of knowing how dangerous my body could be so I wanted to be as fit and as strong as I could get before surgery to help with recovery afterwards.
On the day of my second surgery, it was a beautiful spring morning and we got to see the sun rise, but I felt numb and anxious. I knew the hospital, I knew the surgeons and I knew what the pre-surgery room looked like, yet none of this comforted me. I was then taken to the exam room to be drawn on (felt like I was in an episode of nip/tuck) now that certainly took my mind off the surgery as the room was filled with my surgeon, his junior, an anaesthetist, and 7 junior doctors. Once that was done I was waiting to go down the theatre, I was second in the list. I had my operation, and it was over! I no longer had danger boobs, instead I had implants, with no sensation and drains.
The first few weeks’ post-surgery was very painful. It felt like I had an elephant on my chest and a knife in my back. I couldn’t get comfortable which meant I couldn’t sleep which was causing cramp in my back. I cannot even describe what that felt like, I’ve since had a baby and that wasn’t even as nearly as painful.
The hardest part
6 months’ post - this was the hardest part. It was over for everyone else they had been on the journey with me up until the surgery and the recovery - so for them I’d done it and I was Fiona again. But I didn’t feel like Fiona, I didn’t know whose body I was in, I wasn’t prepared for this feeling. I’d had the realisation of what I had been through and it scared me and broke my heart. I’d made such a huge decision and been extremely pragmatic about the whole journey that this range of emotions completely took me by surprise. I felt lost and alone.
For anyone who feels lost and alone about cancer or genetics you are not alone, even when you feel like your sat in a dark room (like I felt) there will always be someone there to turn I light on for you even it’s a dim light or a slow burner - it’s there. Try and find a positive and then hold on to that as that will get you through.
Why I wear it pink
As well highlighting a great awareness for checking your breasts for cancer, I feel there should be awareness off the research that is going on for genetic mutations. Without the research, I couldn’t have helped preserve my life. Breast Cancer Now has provided a great platform for research and I feel like my fundraising can be a thank you to this research. I also don’t want any girl or woman to be afraid to get tested for a genetic mutation and be afraid of the results - it’s a gift of life. That is why I will wear pink.
So go pink or go home- the pinker the better! And have fun!