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My mom survived breast cancer. I thought that was the end of the story. Little did I know it was just the beginning…
When I moved to San Diego after college my new nurse practitioner asked me questions about my family health history. Between my mom and half-sisters, there was a lot of breast cancer in our family. My nurse practitioner recommended I get genetic testing. I thought she was crazy because I was only 21 years old and had no interest in knowing that much information about my future.
In 2011, my husband and I had our first and only child. He is our world. The moment he entered the world, I knew I had to do everything possible to be the best version of myself. I reached out to my nurse practitioner who recommended my mom get genetic testing first so I could better understand my risk. Both women and men can carry the gene mutation but it felt right to start with my mom. Turns out, she was BRCA1 positive. I got tested and have the same gene mutation. It was tough news to hear but there was no doubt I was going to do everything possible to beat cancer.
I started with an oncologist who referred me to a breast oncologist and a gynecological oncologist. The first breast oncologist told me to chill out. She said I was too young to worry about it. The gynecological oncologist told me differently. He made me feel proud of my decision to take action and showed me studies that recommended preventative care 10 years prior to the date your family member had cancer. My oncologist recommended a different breast oncologist who commended my decision and introduced me to a reconstructive surgeon who was highly regarded for reconstructive surgery post-double mastectomy. We had a plan!
On my 37th birthday, I had my best friend drop me off at the hospital to get a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. A few months prior, I had my fallopian tubes removed because that is where they believe ovarian cancer starts. Both surgeries had to be my decision and I had to do them on my own. I had a 4-year-old son and an amazing husband supporting me at home.
Post-surgery I couldn’t do much for the first 48 hours. My son learned a lot quickly about compassion and empathy. He asked a lot of questions, spent a lot of time checking on me, and he even became a pro at emptying the temporary tubes hanging from my armpits. We were open and honest with our son every step of the way. Involving him in the process helped. Of course, we asked ourselves how much was too much for a young child, and we decided to bring it on.
A lot of people ask me questions about how I did it, if it was difficult, how quickly I went back to work, how my child reacted to sick mommy, how my husband responded to the changes in my body, what do my breasts look like, do I have feeling in my nipples, how long it took to recover. I always answer the questions with honest responses but the overarching answer is always the same...
You only get one chance at life so do everything you can to make the best of it.
Understanding my risk of cancer was a gift because I got to actually do something about it. If you have a history of cancer in your family consider getting genetic testing to better understand your own risk. You have the power to save your own life. You owe that to yourself and to the people who love you. You are loved.
My name is Jenny Wolski, and I am 40 years old living in San Diego, California with my husband, seven-year-old son, two dogs and one fish. I work full-time as an executive while trying to juggle all life has to offer. My favorite things to do are spend time with my family and friends, run long distance, and be near the ocean. I am BRCA1 positive and am often asked to share my story to guide people through their personal journey.