‘Mum’s an inspiration’
The day after mum’s mastectomy I went to visit her in hospital. She’d warned me she might look a little different, but apart from a few wires and a flatter chest, she was still mum.
I was too young to understand how unique her decision had been. But a year later, keen to raise awareness of preventative mastectomies, Mum’s story hit the headlines. That’s when teachers would come to me in the playground, gushing about how incredible she was. And that’s when I started to realise that I may have to follow in her footsteps. If Mum was a carrier of the BRCA1 mutation, it was likely I would be too.
I knew if I was, I’d have to take action – but bringing myself to have the test was still nerve-racking. I put it off as long as I could, but by 22, when my cousin was diagnosed, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. The risk of developing breast cancer only increased as I got older.
When the results came back positive, Mum felt guilty. I held back my tears as I explained that if it wasn’t for her, I may never have been able to have the test anyway.
Unlike when Mum had her surgery, I was offered extensive counselling. And, I’d be able to have a reconstruction at the same time as my breasts were removed. I had my surgery in January 2006 – at the time, I was thought to be the youngest person in the UK to have a preventative mastectomy.
From that day, I rarely thought about cancer. I met my husband Alex in September 2011, and we had our daughter, Eva May, two years later.
We kept her sex a surprise, but I really wasn’t worried when we had a girl. I knew that, thanks to my Mum’s actions, Eva May could get tested. I like to think that medical advances mean that she’ll have even more options when she gets older.
Now, I’m pregnant with my second baby, and after I give birth, I’ll also consider having my ovaries removed.
But for now, Eva May is four years old, and she adores her grandma. It’s the first time in decades that three generations of women in my family have been alive at the same time. And that’s all thanks to Mum and her brave actions.
What she did hasn’t just changed my life, and that of my daughter’s, it’s helped women across the world.
‘i put off The Test as long as i could’