To Be Continued…

I had a setback on April 10. I don’t know entirely what happened and, even if I did, I’m reluctant to share those details as I work to get this matter resolved. But my surgery yesterday did not happen. Bottom line, it had to do with insurance.

Since I decided I was ready for this operation, I’ve taken necessary steps to deal with the emotional and physical effects. I’ve been seeing a therapist as I care deeply about my mental well-being. I hired a nutritionist to help me have a healthy diet and worked out regularly to care for my physical side. My loved ones all played a big part, too. My parents carved time out of their lives to be here with me. My sister took time off work. I had countless gifts and cards sent to me by friends. I purchased prescriptions, comfy clothes, a special bra and other important items to help during my recovery. My niece and nephews sent cards and a gift with their mom the day I was supposed to have my surgery.

My niece and I are so close. I know how much she wanted to be there with me.

I was at the hospital hooked up to an IV getting drugs and had an Oxycodone to help me calm down. I was getting prepped and chatting with my friendly nurse Erica. Then my doctor walked in and let me know surgery was canceled. I know how hard she and her staff worked to advocate for me and I’m so grateful for that. I trust her completely and know she has my back. I cannot tell you how devastated I was. The nurse came back in to take out my IV and I was crying and talking to a friend on the phone to tell them what happened. The nurse actually started tearing up listening to my conversation.

A pretty close depiction of my reaction to the cancellation

Here’s something to know about my genetic mutation: I have an 80% chance of getting breast cancer in my lifetime. I have to lose my breasts to save my life while trying to maintain some of my identity as a woman. Since I had BRCA, I’ve suffered from severe anxiety, depression and panic attacks. To say that I am too young or that anyone knows what’s best for me is bullshit. My aunt had breast cancer at 39. I am 38. I’ve had at least three girlfriends from college diagnosed with breast cancer and one pass from leukemia in the last 5 years. Yesterday, I thought that dark cloud that has been looming over my head would finally go away. Now, it’s back and bigger than ever.

Time is precious. I want to be proactive and stay ahead of this. I don’t know how long an appeal will take but I’m working on it. I have 100% faith and confidence in both of my surgeons. I trust that what they recommend for my procedure is the best method according to standard of care and my long-term outcome. I’m very lucky to work for a company that values the mental health and well-being of its employees. I have no doubt that I have their support as I work towards an appeal.

This is a minor setback. As devastated and disappointed as I am, I believe that everything happens for a reason. There’s some higher being looking over me that intervened and protected me from something. What? I don’t know. But yesterday was not the time for my surgery. My journey is to be continued. My surgery is going to happen and I’ll do whatever it takes.

Advertisements

A Letter to My Breasts

Well, this is it. My surgery has arrived. I’ve been anxious for weeks. I sit here writing this knowing my breasts will be emptied out tomorrow and my hands are shaking. But first I wanted to address the elephant in the room. Something no one really says that’s obvious so let’s just get it out there. Alright. Here it is…I have big boobs.

Some backstory: I developed at an early age. Some people said I was “blessed” but I thought it was a curse. I was a C cup by 12-years-old. In 6th grade, a boy grabbed my boobs on a dare because my classmates thought I stuffed my bra. I screamed in pain and saw the shock on his face turn to pure awe. A friend would get mad at me for wearing tank tops around her boyfriend because he’d stare. A male classmate gave me a mean nickname that made his buddies laugh. Teachers would reprimand me for wearing tight tops because it “distracted” the boys but really it was just hard finding clothes that fit me properly. And any time a guy asked me out, I didn’t know if he was actually interested in me or just wanted to see how far he could get so he could brag in the locker room.

My entire life I’ve been programmed to feel hate, shame or embarrassment about my body by the people around me. Clearly I couldn’t help it; they kept growing. My freshman year of high school I was a D cup then by senior year a DD. For over 10 years, I was a 38DDD and my weight would fluctuate but I never lost anything up top. Then last summer I lost over 20 lbs (not really healthy as I was severely depressed) and for the first time ever I went down a bra size. I’ve been a 36DDD since July.

Now, I’m older and wiser and I think that’s why I’m so outspoken and loud – it’s compensating for my teen years when I was so passive and meek. Looking back I should’ve slapped Brian for grabbing my chest. I would’ve told my friend to get after her shitty boyfriend. I’d tell the teachers to inform the boys they should respect their female classmates. Those things weren’t my fault and my only power was how I dealt with it.

A month ago I was at Top Golf with friends when I first heard the word “previvor.” My friend Brittany said “that’s what you are” so I looked it up. The word is defined as “individuals who are survivors of a predisposition to cancer but who havenโ€™t had the disease. This group includes people who carry a hereditary mutation, a family history of cancer, or some other predisposing factor.

I’ve hated my body for over 20 years of my life. But that day when I learned of the word previvor, something switched. I looked down at my chest and really appreciated what I had. I’m giving up my breasts for a chance that something will happen. I felt a genuine sadness and loss for what’s being taken away because there’s also a chance it won’t happen. Having a large chest is part of my identity and I feel like I’m losing who I am. Whenever I meet a person and someone is asked to describe me, they’re like, “Oh that girl with the big boobs.” What I am going to be now when they’re different? Will people even recognize me?

It wasn’t until two years ago I truly started to embrace my body. As I learned how to enjoy my assets, I began wearing low-cut tops and fitted dresses. I have my friend Stephanie Colorado to thank for helping me feel more confident in my skin. Now, I appreciate my breasts giving me an identity and allowing me to stand out. I’m not ashamed anymore and love my body. I’m only sorry it’s taken so long and such drastic measures to get to this point but I’m here now and that’s what matters.

So, the day before my surgery, I wrote a letter to my breasts and wanted to share it with you:

To my family and friends, I love you so much. And thank you to you for always being there.

All my Love, Jess

My Booby Shower

When I was going through the process of deciding to have surgery, I always tried to think ahead. One of the things I noticed was I’d have to give up a lot of things I love before and after surgery: red wine, green tea, garlic, high impact activity like SoulCycle and hot yoga. Oh, and alcohol! Me? Giving up alcohol? That’s like asking a dolphin to not swim.

A lot of people think I’m going crazy and eating whatever I want since it’s going to be taken out later but I’ve made a point of being healthy, cutting out alcohol and having lots of protein. I even hired a nutritionist to help with my diet and in 3 weeks I’ve lost 3 lbs. I feel great! Heather has been simply awesome and is so motivating. She has the most incredible energy and very inspirational. During one of our first coaching calls, she said a quote that really struck a chord, “To gain anything in life, we have to be willing to lose things. To create a new life requires losing your old.” It didn’t just resonate with things like eliminating greasy food and sugar but also with giving up my breasts so I can gain a new life with peace of mind.

So, the party. How’d that happen? If you ever watched “Sex & the City,” there’s an episode where Carrie is shamed by a married friend for her single-girl lifestyle choices. Carrie points out she celebrates and invests in the relationships, weddings, baby showers, etc. of her married friends while the single girls and non-mothers (like me) don’t get our moments to receive the same. And then I realized something (haha…see what I did there?), my decision to have a mastectomy and breast reconstruction is a milestone to celebrate. When I asked two of my dear and supportive friends if they’d throw a party for me, they didn’t hesitate to say “Yaaaaas!

On March 30, 2019, I had a booby shower! (Austin, TX)

Maybe this sounds crass or dirty but it wasn’t. I blame society for over-sexualizing something that is beautiful, natural and meant for nourishment. This is my journey and I decide the experiences regarding my decision. My shower was about celebrating taking control of my body and living your best life now. There are so many unknowns and I wanted a big hurrah before everything changes. I don’t know how I’ll be able to tolerate the pain and recovery. I don’t know how I’ll react when I see my new breasts. I don’t know what my body will look like in a few months. I don’t know how long it will take me to feel normal again. For me, a person who likes routine, staying active and planning, all this is unsettling. I always try to approach things that scare me with an open mind and a sense of humor so a themed-party made sense. I know how lucky I am I get to have fun with my decision because I’m not sick and other women may not be as fortunate. While I’m scared, I don’t want to be sad.

For the party, I wanted fun. I wanted to dance. To not worry. To let loose in the comfort and safety of people I love. And to drink just one more time! It will be a while before I can have alcohol again.

No names on cups at my party. Bra sizes only! Boob cupcakes, brassiere cookies and a special cocktail. #tatatitties

On a normal day, I dress casual and fairly covered up. For the party I wore a dress my friends call my “Kim Kardashian” outfit because it’s form-fitting and shows off my curves. I told the girls to dress up and play up their chests! We were celebrating ALL boobs! I invited people but didn’t know who would come. Austin had an unexpected cold-front so it was freezing and the forecast called for rain. But the door kept opening and in kept popping in faces of people that are so special to me. My former roommate came in from Dallas. Friends from undergrad and grad school showed up. Work friends. Former work friends. Friends from my social circle in Austin. Friends I see weekly and friends I haven’t seen in years.

I’m blessed to have many so wonderful friends. They came out to support me and celebrate my journey.

You probably see the bathroom selfie. I know it’s cliche but it was a special moment. I had a breakdown during the party as I was going through my camera roll and noticed one photo in particular. I looked so damn happy in it because I realized I am; I’m the happiest I’ve been in a really long time. To see that glow on my face and smile got me. Then I looked up and I saw everyone in room. I pride myself on having many circles of friends from different areas of my life. To see these circles intertwine and everyone laughing, talking and having fun…it was overwhelming and I was overcome with so much emotion. It happened so fast that I couldn’t have stopped it even if I tried – I started sobbing. One of the girls grabbed me and took me to the bathroom. Then several friends rushed in when they saw me crying. “What’s wrong? Is she okay? What happened? Is she having a panic attack?” Me, blubbering: “I’m s-so h-happy! Look at this p-picture! Look how ha-happy I look!” They were relieved and starting wiping my tears. “Okay, it’s a happy cry but you’re ruining your make-up.” They listened to me say I was scared, said they loved me and it would all be okay. Once I calmed down, they fixed my face up so I could return to the party. But first we took the picture. Because that’s what friends do – they’re strong for you and carry you when you have your weak moments.

It was a wonderful celebration and my friends even asked to have another party when I get my new boobs. It was two days ago and I’m still smiling – and I’m positive I’ll smile any time I think about it for the rest of my life. I let my friends motorboat me. I had an old school hip-hop/R&B playlist we jammed to all night. I danced on the sofa. I took a lot of pictures. There were squishy boobs we kept tossing around and taking pics with. I drank from a pink cup with 36D written on it (my future bra size). I drank vodka (my favorite) and enjoyed it since it would be my last for a while. The party was everything I wanted and more. I remember most of it. Apparently I gave a speech that I don’t remember giving (haha).

Also something I realized the next day, while I knew nearly everyone there, a few friends brought along their friends who didn’t know me. I didn’t mind guests at all. We had plenty to drink and the more the merrier! But I couldn’t help but wonder (I did it again!) what they thought went they walked in and saw boobs everywhere. Like, “Huh? What is going on? What are we celebrating?

I don’t know what’s ahead for me but I know that I’m excited about it. It feels like the beginning of something great. The start of a new path and gaining a new chapter in my life. And most importantly, I know that I have a whole lot of people behind me to get me through it. No one should ever go through a process like this without strong and amazing people at their side.

The “Girls” ๐Ÿ™‚

What’s Going to Happen

I know I’ve said this before but I can’t say it enough – thank you. I’m so lucky to have had friends reach out to me from various stages of my life: high school, Texas Lassos, Camp Texas, Orange Jackets, ILC, Contiki, grad school, TNT, Croatia, former students, my professional career, my Austin social scene, YTAC, family, friends of family and so much more. One of the things I love about my life is I’ve taken interesting paths that intersect with people from all walks of life. No matter how brief or long our interaction was and no matter when it was, I made a friend who is part of a certain memory or moment. I have the best support system and you’re all getting me through one of the most daunting things I’ve ever faced.

I wanted to use this post to address a question I’m getting asked a lot: “What’s going to happen with your surgery?” This is a valid question and I don’t mind talking about it. I realize how lucky I am that I get to be proactive and not reactive. Once cancer is detected, options are limited and action has to be taken quickly.

Let me make one thing clear: I’m NOT losing my breasts and I won’t be without them. To be honest, if I had to have my breasts removed entirely, even for just a day, I wouldn’t have been able to have this surgery. It’d be too emotionally jarring. I can’t imagine how incredibly unnerving and what a jolt it is to your soul to look down at your chest and see nothing there. To those women who do it, you are a warrior.

I have two fabulous doctors: a breast surgeon doing the mastectomy and plastic surgeon doing the reconstruction. When I went in for a consultation with the plastic surgeon, Dr. Christine Fisher, she was professional, kind and made me feel incredibly comfortable. I liked her right away and knew I was in good hands. She seemed a bit excited to work with me since she likely deals with a lot of cancer patients and those situations come with a different set of emotions. Dr. Fisher said she could take her time with me since there’s no urgency. “We will minimize scarring. Help you have an easier recovery. And I’ll make sure you will have perky, pretty and full breasts.” Me? With perky breasts? This is how I reacted:

The first surgery is April 10 with a month-long recovery. At this operation they’re doing multiple things: they’re saving my skin, doing a breast reduction, removing all of the breast tissue and inserting temporary expanders. The expanders are empty implants and they’ll be in there to help me heal. So I’m going to have no weight in my breasts. How frickin’ weird is that?

For 2 weeks I have to rest and in week 3 & 4 I can slowly resume normal activity like driving and work. I’m also supposed to use T-Rex arms (picture that – it’s amusing) so I don’t damage anything. I’ll have tubes and drains in to collect bodily fluids, which I can’t do myself (obviously, T-Rex arms) so that’s what I need the most help with – emptying and cleaning them. After this surgery, my breasts will be smaller and I’m currently deciding what size I want to be. Depending on you ask, I get different reactions. “Go smaller. Think of your long-term health and your back problems,” to “Stay the same size,” or “Go BIGGER!” (You can probably guess who’s telling me this.)

I have to wait a minimum of three months to heal and then I can have the next surgery. They’re doing a procedure called a DIEP flap where fat tissue will be removed from my abdomen. The expanders will come out and the fat will go in. In the pamphlets I read, the medical term for this is “reharvesting tissue.” But, as my nephew Adam pointed out, “So, you’re going to be skinny?” Me: “Excuse me? SkinniER!

In all seriousness, this surgery will be painful – I’ve spoken to several women who’ve had it. The recovery time is around 6 weeks. I’ll have a scar across my lower stomach so my dreams of ever having beautiful smooth abs are now gone. But I’ll wear that scar with pride.

As I said before, I don’t mind sharing what’s going on with me. Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a pretty open person. I’ve received messages from friends who say they were in denial or scared about their health but are now encouraged to take BRCA after hearing about what I’m doing. My doctor first asked me to take BRCA in 2011 when I turned 30 and the test was really expensive (around $2,000). Plus, not a lot of people knew about it. Then in 2013, Angelina Jolie made headlines when she had the same procedure I’m having after taking BRCA. Thanks to the “Angelina effect” more people knew they had options. Most insurance companies should cover the test if you have two relatives on the same side with the same type of cancer. For me, that is my maternal grandmother (who had it twice and survived) and my aunt. With that test confirming what I already suspected, I’m able to take action now and not just wait for breast cancer to happen to me. And thanks to Obamacare, insurance companies can’t deny you treatment for a pre-existing condition.

So don’t thank Angelina. Thank me. ๐Ÿ˜‰



Telling the Kids

First I have to say how grateful I am to everyone who has reached out to me since I let y’all know about my decision. I heard from people I hadn’t spoken to in years saying they would send me their love and prayers, not to mention offering to help with my recovery by walking Finn or bringing me meals. Truly I’m overwhelmed – in a good way. I didn’t know what kind of response to get but to hear words like “brave,” “strong,” “amazing” and “inspiring” is not what I imagined. I’m so blessed to have your support and moved by your words of encouragement.

My birthday was on March 11 and, in true fashion, I made sure I celebrated it to the fullest. Sunday I went to brunch. Monday I went to SoulCycle, had a spa day and a great dinner with some of my closest friends. Tuesday I went to see “Earth, Wind & Fire” with one of my favorite people. On Wednesday my parents, sister Melissa and 4 of my 5 nieces/nephews came to Austin to take me to dinner: Kendal, Adam, Jacob and Aidan. I decided it was time to tell the kids about the operation. I know how much they care about me and how attached they are. A long time ago, I choked on a Funion (yes, the chip) after Adam said something funny and it got stuck in my throat. Kendal, who was about 6 and is now almost 14, was sitting next to me and starting panicking and crying her eyes out. I was laughing so hard and couldn’t breath then the damn thing melted and I was fine. I consoled Kendal (it was sweet she was so worried about me), giving her a hug and wrapping my hands around her little face. I said to her, “Oh baby girl. Your Aunt JJ has been through a lot in my life. Do you really think I’d get taken out by a Funion?” She was so young and doesn’t remember this incident but she loves hearing the story.

I had to tell them mostly because I know how used they are to seeing me running around, playing and being active. I know I’m not going to be like that in about a month. I was nervous about how they’d respond but mostly by having to actually say the words out loud. I had the opportunity to finally do it when they were here. They got to town and we went for a walk around UT. The kids were talking about how they wanted to go to school there one day, just like me.

Little Longhorns: Kendal, Adam, Jacob and AJ and they’re arranged oldest to youngest ๐Ÿ™‚ (Just missing my Becca)

We were on our way to Hula Hut for dinner and they all wanted to ride in my car – Kendal in the front and the three boys in the back. I turned down the radio and said I had something important to talk to them about so they needed to listen. That if they had any questions to just ask and I’d tell them the truth. I’d never lie to them.

I started out by saying I wasn’t sick and it was important for them to remember that. Then I said I was going to be in San Antonio next month and may look sick but really I’ll be in a lot of pain. I told them about the test I took and how it indicated there was a chance I’d get breast cancer one day. “Like Tia Frankie?” Jacob asked. “Yes, like her,” I replied. “I don’t want you to get breast cancer,” he said. “I don’t either, baby. That’s why I’ve decided to have surgery. So I’m going to get new boobs!”

The boys, being little boys, started laughing at hearing the word “boobs.” Then I looked over at Kendal, who I knew would understand everything, and she was crying. I fought to keep going but my voice wavered at times. I used an analogy of having water balloons with bad water inside so the doctors were going to empty the balloons then put in new and better water. That’s when the questions started piling up. Adam: “Will you still have boobs?” (Yes, I will, but they’re going to be smaller.) Jacob: “Will you be in a wheelchair?” (No, I won’t at grandma’s house but probably in the hospital.) Adam: “What’s going to be inside your boobs?” (They’re going to take fat out my stomach to rebuild them.) I noticed Adam was interested in the science of the operation (totally his personality as he loves engineering) while Jacob’s questions were about my well-being (which is also very much his personality as he’s incredibly intuitive). I went on to explain this was only going to be the first surgery where they’d empty the balloons and make them smaller. I’d get another surgery later where they’d fill them back up. Side note: those boys will never look at water balloons the same way again.

They asked me what day the surgery was and that’s when the funniest thing that came from this entire conversation happened. “It’s April 10 and on a Wednesday,” I told them. Aidan, the littlest one at 6-years-old said, “Ah, man, I have school!” We all burst out laughing, even Kendal.

I told them I didn’t want them at the hospital. “I’ll have Grandma and Grandpa with me and your mom is going to be here. I have two really awesome doctors doing the operation and nurses who will take care of me. I also have a lot of friends who want to visit me and offering to help. The surgery is here in Austin so you guys go to school like normal and I’ll see you a few days after. As soon as the doctors say I can leave, I’m going to San Antonio and staying with grandma and grandpa so they can take care of me. I’m going to need a lot of help so I can get better.

The boys were excited to hear I’d be back home in San Antonio and offered to help me in any way I needed by bringing me food, giving me medicine and even asked what they could do for Finn. “Yes, I’m going to need a lot of help with Finny because I won’t be able to take care of him.” They said they’d pray for me. Then Jacob pointed out Kendal’s birthday is April 12, which I completely forgot. I looked over at her and she was staring out the window, wiping tears from her eyes. I told them we’d celebrate her birthday later. I leaned over to hold her hand and she squeezed me. She didn’t ask any questions and never said a single word.

Finally, the last and hardest question was asked by Jacob: “Are you scared?” I remembered my promise to not lie to them.

“Yes, I’m scared. I’m very scared.” My voice was shaking and I didn’t say anymore because I knew I’d start crying. Jacob, with his young 9-year-old wisdom and honest way of looking at the world, responded by saying this:

“You may be scared, but I think you’re making the right decision so you don’t get breast cancer.”

My eyes finally welled up. I could see Adam nodding. I love that kid. I love them all. I listened to them fight about who was going to walk Finn and who was going to get me breakfast tacos.

It helps to talk about it and share my story. That’s one of the reasons I have this blog. Now that I have my surgery confirmed, it’s become more real and scary. I find myself getting more emotional saying anything out loud. Doing this helps me cope and talk about it. Like Jacob said, yes, it’s scary, but I’m making the right decision. And to hear this from a 9-year-old little boy assures me there actually is no right or wrong way – the right decision is just my decision.

Taking Back Control of My Body

“You’re so young.” “You have nothing to worry about.” “Try not to think about it.”

These are phrases I’ve heard over and over again from my friends when I would talk about my fear of getting breast cancer. But I’m not so young – I’m about to turn 38 – and I do think about it so it’s impossible to not worry.

Which is why, at the age of 37, I’ve made the decision to have a double mastectomy.

Here’s my story:

Back in 2015, I was at a check-up with my obstetrician. She asked me if I wanted to take the BRCA genetic test to determine my risk for developing cancer. I was still grieving the death of my Tia Frankie, my beloved aunt who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39 and passed at 45 years old. My doctor had been encouraging me to take the test for several years and I would respond with, “I don’t need a test to tell me I’m getting cancer. I know I will.” I was 34 years old and she caught me in a moment of weakness so I finally said yes. A few weeks later, the office called and asked me to schedule an appointment to discuss the results. (You know it’s not good when they ask you to come in.) There it was, in bright bold red, science confirming my worst fears:

Specifically I carried the gene that indicated I was a high risk for breast cancer. I started shaking looking at the piece of paper. In my mind, I thought of my aunt lying in hospice, standing at her side helpless as I watched her life leave her body. I could see my niece in bed with puffy eyes and tissues in her hand the night before the funeral. I remember holding my cousin, her youngest daughter in my arms as her coffin was taken to the hearse. I know the profound and deep affect that cancer inflicts upon a family. And all I could think was that somewhere in my body, there were cells currently lying dormant that would one day awake like a beast and wreck havoc upon my body.

I left her office crying. I threw the results in my car trunk and placed them over my spare tire. Out of sight, out of mind, right? The next time I’d see those results would be in the event of a flat tire and I’d remember to tell myself, “Hey, it’s only a flat. It could be worse – you could probably have cancer.”ย 

The recommendation was to have annual mammograms and CT scans. For most women, they do this starting at the age of 45 but I was higher risk so I needed to start earlier. When I went in the first time, I broke down in tears and the nice technician doing my images consoled me. At the CT scan they gave me Valium to try to calm me down…it didn’t work. I jumped up from the table and had a panic attack. The nurse commented that she had never seen someone move so quickly after taking Valium. These tests made me hysterical and I felt like a ticking bomb. I decided fuck that…I was done. If cancer is coming for me, there’s nothing I can do. I didn’t need to put myself through that stress.

Then, on Halloween weekend in 2017, I noticed a small mass on my left breast. My heart started pounding and my stomach dropped. The first thing I did was call a friend from college, Nicole, who is my age and a breast cancer survivor. Her advice to me was, “If it’s not normal, go get it looked at.” I went in to get it checked out and had another panic attack. They performed both a mammogram and sonogram, which gives you a better visual of the inner-working of the tissue. The technician was kind and asked me about my aunt as tears rolled down my face. I got the results and I was fine – just a cyst. But the sonogram detected clusters of cells, several in each breast, and because of the gene they have the potential to become cancerous. She recommended bi-annual mammograms and cancer screenings a year. TWO? I can barely manage one! I didn’t go back for my six month follow-up and when October 2018 rolled around, they called me and reminded me it was time to come in. It had been a year.

I thought burying the results in my car would make me forget. I thought living my life and not letting the genes in my body determine my happiness would let me move on. But every once in a while, I would wake up in the middle of the night, sit up fast in my bed with my heart racing and difficulty breathing. I was having a panic attack and I realized it was the exact same panic attack I had that day in the hospital at the CT scan. Subconsciously, it was taking a toll on me. My quality of life had been severely impacted and no matter how hard I worked to ignore it, those emotions lay dormant just like my cancerous gene.

I’m very lucky and incredibly blessed: I have a great job with amazing benefits. I have a team I’m so lucky to work with everyday. I have an incredible support system of friends I can lean on and are always there for me. I can reach for my phone and dial up just about anyone in my contacts and, even if it’s been years since we’ve spoken, I know that person will talk to me like no time has passed. I have a loving family that has been through hell together and we’ve come out stronger and closer.

I look at my nieces and nephews and my heart bursts with love. I’m doing this for them. I want to see them grow up. I want to be a part of their achievements and witness their milestones. I want to see what types of people they’ll become and what they will do with their lives. I adore those kids and I know how much they love their Aunt JJ – they tell me every time I see them. I don’t ever want to inflict the pain and suffering of cancer upon them; they’ve already been through that with another aunt.

But mostly, I’m doing this for myself. I want to take back control of my body. When I got the genetic testing results, I felt like my body had betrayed me; like it was tainted. I had a shift in my mindset to thinking it was no longer a matter of “if” I would get cancer but more “when.” So I’m taking charge – it’s my body and I want it back. That’s why I’ve decided now is the time to take measures into my own hands and have this operation. If there’s a way to beat cancer to the punch, let’s do it. I’m ready. Terrified but ready.

I appreciate everyone I’ve already told and those who listened to me as I went through the decision making process. Now the really scary part is beginning. I’m fortunate to have so many friends around the world and I want to keep all of you in the loop so I’ll use this blog to keep you updated. Surgery is scheduled soon and I’ll keep you posted on what’s ahead for me.

Thank you and God bless.

-Jessica