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Four letters. One number. These are the digits that completely changed my life forever.
I was only 14 years old and just beginning my eighth grade year of school. I was just like all the other kids in school; just trying to push through every day and hopefully pass each test with at least a 50 percent. School was school. I had just enough friends and I was in a good place in my life.
I had never been the type of girl to stand out in a crowd or the type of person to enjoy being the centre of attention. I was more the type to just fly under the radar.
I was always the girl who hid in the bathroom stalls after gym class so I could change in private so that none of the other girls could see me. While everyone else was wearing cute padded bras, I was as flat chested as could be, not needing to wear anything to support my non-existent chest. Of course the other girls would talk and say mean things—after all, we were in junior high and nobody had anything better to do than make fun of me and my little friends lefty and righty. I always pretended not to care, but of course, all we ever want as human beings is to fit in and be accepted by our peers.
I went home one day and asked my grandma when I would start to develop breasts. She explained to me how it is different for everyone and that I just had to be patient. I found myself constantly looking at my body and boobs and criticizing myself. It began to be a real insecurity of mine. One day while I was checking myself out, I noticed a bump upon my right breast. I'd say it was about the size of a grape. I called for my grandma to come and check it out. She told me that it was probably nothing but that I should get a doctor to check it out, anyways.
We went that day to the doctor and I can truly say this is a day that I will never forget.
So for those of you who aren't familiar with the gene I keep referring to, it is a breast cancer gene. It took about a month or so, but I did, in fact, receive the news that I tested positive for BRCA1 and that I was carrying this cancerous gene. The doctor explained to me that I did not have cancer, but that I was very likely to develop breast cancer at some point because I was high at risk carrying this gene. The chances of me getting cancer were anywhere between 40-85 percent.
I continued going to school like normal, but inside I felt like I was slowly dying. I hadn't told anybody that I was sick because I did not want people to feel sorry for me and begin treating me differently. I felt a bit freaky and all I wanted was for the demon living inside of me to go away.
For the months to follow, it felt like I was seeing doctor after doctor. All I really cared about was how I was going to getting better. All the doctors had assured me that what I had was 90 percent curable, so now I was just waiting to be cured.
Reminder: I was only 14 years old. I was being told that I had a cancerous gene and if I did not do something about it, I was at high risk for developing breast cancer.
Mastectomy. This is a word that my grandma had to explain to me many times before it finally sunk in. I couldn't comprehend that I, a 14-year-old girl who had barely developed breasts, was going to have to get them removed. It made no sense to me. I was already getting made fun of for having a flat chest and now I was going to be even flatter!
I cried to my family for quite some time about what was going on. Even though I was only 14, I knew I was a woman and that one day I'd enjoy having some form of breasts. I had enough insecurities the way it was and I couldn't fathom the idea of having one more thing that would make me feel bad about myself.
After lots of conversation, one day my parents sat me down and told me that they were open to the idea of me getting breast implants.
Implants? What 14-year-old girl has fake breasts?
The idea of having a fake chest at such a young age really frightened me. What were the kids at school going to say? But at the same time, it was comforting knowing that I would have the chance to finally have breasts and feel like all the other girls at school. It was getting tiring always being an outcast.
After quite a lot of deliberation, I decided to go through with both procedures. On November 2nd, my life changed. I don't really remember much about it. I remember being rolled away in a wheel chair and not wanting to let go of my mom's hand. I remember being put to sleep and then waking up with big, perky boobs. I remember being so fucked up on morphine and yelling at my dad to take me to McDonald's on the way home from the hospital because I was so hungry.
The recovery was about two weeks long. I truly could not stop staring at my boobs. I finally felt feminine and not like I resembled a 12-year-old boy.
So yes, it was scary. Yes, I had cancer and had to have my breasts removed. Yes, I got fake boobs at a very young age. Yes, I have scars to remind me every day of the battle I faced. And finally, yes, I am beyond proud of the wounds I have, because every day they remind me of my story and that I am a fighter.
It's been six years since BRCA1 entered my life and this is the first time I'm telling the story. I never wanted to be viewed as a sick person or as a person with cancer. I simply always just wanted to be seen as me. Whenever someone has noticed my scars, my reply has been: "It's a long story." Now that long story has been told.
Thanks for reading! Please consider donating to my cancer research fundraiser!