Erica's Previvor Story

In July 2017, at the age of 30, I found out that I was BRCA1 positive. It wasn’t shocking, my family had cancer on both sides and my Uncle and cousin were positive as well. 

As a mom of 2 kids under four years old, wife, and teacher, life was busy! But like everything that comes at me in life, I handled it and knew exactly what I would do. 

Within 1 month I had all my doctors picked out and my date of preventative surgery, January 8th 2018. I would be going direct to implant with nipple sparing. I spent the next 5 months going through the motions. Going to appointments, working, birthdays, trips with each of my kids, and date nights. Our lives were consumed by this. There were many sleepless nights that I would go into my babies rooms and stare at them, the mom guilt hitting HARD. Will this affect them? 

I never questioned my decision, I wasn’t afraid to have a double mastectomy, I was scared, scared of the unknown. 

“What would I look like?” 

“What would my husband think of my new breasts?” 

I felt alone. This decision brought loss of friends, people didn’t understand my decision and didn’t know how to handle it. I felt like the only person that got what I was going through was 100’s of miles away. So, I took my cousins advice and started to document my journey and reach out to other women. At the time, I didn’t realize how this would change my life. 

Surgery day came and went fast. Waking up I felt different, not because of the obvious but every part of me felt different. I looked down to see two drains hanging from my breasts and a bandage that covered my entire upper body, not allowing me to see anything. 

The first week I spent at my mom’s house, she did everything for me, which allowed me to get the rest that I needed and my body to heal. When the bandage was finally taken off after a week, my nipples were black. The sight of my nipples took over and I could see nothing else. For the next 3 months I would apply a sulfa cream to each nipple and keep them covered. 

The first few weeks were difficult… I couldn’t lift my babies, I couldn’t wash my own hair, and I couldn’t do anything without help. I hated it. I am such an independent person and allowing myself to get help was HARD. 

My nipples ended up surviving and eventually after time they looked familiar to me again. 

Things eventually got easier and I continued to reach out and talk about the changes. I became The Breasties Arizona ambassador, a non-profit for women affected by breast and ovarian cancer and started to hold events in AZ and began to meet amazing women who all felt similar. I wrote my story of becoming a previvor and became a published writer. I went on a retreat with 20 other women affected by breast cancer and learned more about myself. 

Life started to settle down and I was finally getting used to my new breasts. 
Now at 10 months post- surgery, I can do everything I was once able to do but it’s different….I am different. 

I struggle with the change of my body, I can see my breasts but I can’t FEEL them. I touch them a lot, hoping that touching them will give me connection. 

I lost a lot through this but what I have gained is huge. I gained a tribe of women that I not only call my friends but my family. 

I think about situations with more empathy, I have slowed down (a little), I cherish those quiet moments, and I listen more. 

I gained scars that I am proud of and foobs that I am learning to love. 
The unknown that I was so scared of at the beginning, the fright of losing the person I was, that unknown ended up being the best thing that could have happened. It helped me find ME. The ME that I didn’t realize was missing.

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