Jennifer's books

Goodbye, Vitamin
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
Mrs. Hemingway
Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir
The Princess Diarist
Watch Me Disappear
Hello, Sunshine
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
A Man Called Ove
The Heirs
Our Souls at Night
White Fur
Confessions of a Domestic Failure
The Map That Leads to You
The Little French Bistro
Love the Wine You're With
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
The Party
New Boy

Jennifer Curry's favorite books »

Sunday, January 26, 2020

I am 36, Having a Double Mastectomy, and Throwing a Party

I am 36 years old, and I am having a double mastectomy. In 2019, my young mom was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram. There was no family history of breast cancer, so it was a shock. But she was assured it was caught early and she would survive this unexpected battle. (FLASH FORWARD – She’s Cancer-Free!)

In the meantime, I met with my OBGYN to talk about my potential breast cancer risk. Shocking to both of us, the basic risk assessment she performed showed I was now labeled “high risk” for breast cancer. This new label meant I needed to start mammograms earlier than typically requested (age 40). I had my first mammogram at age 36. It came back clear.

My mom proceeded to have breast cancer surgery to remove the cancerous area and was ready to begin her follow-up cancer treatment when her oncologist pushed her to get genetic testing. There was no family history, so this seemed like another unnecessary doctor’s appointment. But since my mom and I have both had melanoma, the doctor just wanted to be sure there was nothing else going on.

Our Suntan Years

There was something else going on. The genetic testing came back to reveal my mom has a rare breast cancer gene known as PALB2. This breast cancer gene is similar to the one you may have heard about in the news from celebrities like Angelina Jolie called BRCA, which is linked to breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Unlike the BRCA gene, the PALB2 gene has not been linked to ovarian cancer. Still, the risk for breast cancer recurring or occurring in her other breast was significantly higher than the rest of the population.

Her plan changed overnight. Instead of undergoing cancer treatment following her lumpectomy, she would have a double mastectomy to even more significantly reduce her chances of having breast cancer again.

At this same time, the genetic counselor pushed for her daughter (that would be me) to have genetic testing done as well. So I did. And the test revealed I also have the PALB2 gene.

Suddenly, I had a breast cancer care team and appointments with doctors. I had three options. Make healthy lifestyle choices and hope for the best, have a mammogram once a year and a breast MRI once a year, or have a double mastectomy.

After watching all my mom went through in 2019 and believing my body is done having babies, I have made the decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. It is a highly personal decision, but it is one I find empowering. I get to make this decision – my mom didn’t have that opportunity before she found out she had breast cancer.

Fortunately, due to the significant risk of developing breast cancer because of this special gene, my insurance covers the cost of surgery and reconstruction.

While I know my life is ultimately in God’s hands and He could call me home at any time, I am thankful for the advancements in medicine that have provided me the opportunity to beat cancer before it's started.

Shauna Niequist (who I LOVE) writes in her book Savor, “When you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that’s when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that’s celebration.”

And so, the weekend before my big surgery, I had a “Bye-Bye Boobs Bash” with all of the women who have supported me. There was food and drinks (boob-shaped cakes and cookies and lots of pink wine) – and there was celebration. Because, at the end of the day, I am choosing to see this as just a small but powerful chapter in the story of my life.

Plus, we collected more than 20 bras to donate to Donate Your Bras, an organization that supports breast cancer survivors and women in distress.

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