Here Goes Nothing

I can’t believe it’s here. It’s hard to believe I’ve been planning this day for nearly 10 months. I remember meeting with my friend Ali Weinberg for lunch on March 20th. I remember this day because it was one day before my 23rd birthday, the same Sunday when the Early Act passed.  Ali was my age and had a prophylactic mastectomy done a year before.  She regretted absolutely nothing and loved her new breasts.  After hearing her story and seeing her beautiful new breasts, I was brought to tears at the relief of knowing that a mastectomy was a viable option for a 23-year-old woman with a BRCA-1 mutation, that I didn’t have to wait until 35 to do away with the anxiety and cancer risk associated with this defective gene, and that other 23-year-olds had already paved the way for me.  If Ali could do it then so could I.

So I started planning.  In March I started writing about my experience and by June I was filming with the PREVIVE team.  In September we launched our website, started collecting stories of incredibly brave Previvors, and my own story was featured in the Ladies Home Journal.  Then October took me up in a whirlwind.  NBC showed my story on national television, and PREVIVE started to receive and an even larger following.

At first I was kind of scared of how big everything was becoming.  Did I bite off more than I could chew?  I mean, I only wanted to get new breasts that wouldn’t kill me, it couldn’t be all that newsworthy.  But every time I read a comment and saw the tremendous outpour of love in my reader’s words, I was moved to tears and felt even more compelled to carry on no matter what.  We must all continue to openly and honestly share our stories, because our journeys give the priceless gift of inspiration and have the potential to not only change lives but save them all together.

My life was changed when Ali Weinberg so graciously revealed every intimate detail of her story to me.  After seeing her so happy with her body and her decision, I knew I was going to be better than okay.  And after reading the other bold, courageous previvor stories on this website, I’ve become even stronger in my resolve.

Here Goes Nothing
Now it’s my turn to become a previvor and follow the footsteps of all the women who have paved the way for me.  In 12 hours I’ll be heading into the operating room, and by tomorrow evening it will all be over.  Well, for the most part.  I’ll still need more reconstruction, but my lifetime risk of breast cancer will have gone from 90% to 1% in the span of a few hours.  I can hardly wrap my mind around this one.  I bet I’ll still automatically think to do self-breast exams, only to remember that my risk is a thing of the past.  How will it feel to no longer be threatened by this cancer anymore??  I can’t imagine the relief that will come to me in a few short hours.  What a blessing.

In the meantime, I’m still nervous about the surgery itself.  I’m no longer mourning the loss of my breasts but now I’m anxious to embrace the new ones that won’t try to kill me.  Although the actual thought of surgery makes me queasy.  I’m trying to remember that this procedure is completely routine for my surgeons and that it will all be over before I know it.  I hope it’s as anti-climactic as I’m imagining.

My mom, my aunt, my grandfather, his wife, my amazing boyfriend, and my film crew will accompany me to the hospital tomorrow morning.  We plan to arrive at 7:30am so I can pay a deposit at registration and head straight to the waiting room.  My surgery is scheduled to begin at 9:40am EST and it should last about five hours.  The first part is when Dr. Willey, my breast surgeon, will remove my breast tissue and the risk of cancer.  Then the second part is when Dr. Spear will put me back together again.  Then by 3:00pm I should be in recovery and the healing will begin.

I know I didn’t eat as healthy as I should have this week, and I should have gone to the gym today, and I should have drank more water, and…  Gosh, the list could go on.  But I need to put that all aside and try to get a good night sleep tonight.  My lips are a little chapped and I can’t put any vaseline on them anymore.  I already showered with my antibacterial soap, shaved my legs, and I’ll straighten my hair in the morning.  I won’t be able to shower until my drains are removed approximately 7-10 days after the operation – yuck!  So I’m trying to savor the clean feeling right now.  At least I’ll be able to shower as much as I want once I’m healed and I won’t have to worry about breast cancer putting an end to my showers forever.

So I’m going to take out my contacts now and climb into bed.  I’m praying for serenity and peace of mind to get me through the day tomorrow.  My mom will post status updates on my facebook account to let everyone know how the surgery is coming along, so be sure to check there if you want to get the latest.  Thank you to everyone for your sweet emails, facebook messages, phone calls, text messages, etc.  I feel so incredibly loved and supported.  Knowing that I have a community of people across the country thinking of me tomorrow helps more than you can ever imagine.  Thank you so very, very much!

And I can’t end this blog without saying a proper goodbye to my breasts.  So, breasts, thank you for bringing me into my womanhood.  But most of all, thank you for helping me realize the importance of my health, despite my age.  Thank you for helping me become so proactive and helping me realize the value of my life.  For that I’m forever grateful.  Thank you.

Now it’s time for a new lease on life.  Here goes nothing!

12 Responses to “Here Goes Nothing”

  1. January 11, 2011 at 3:40 am

    Sending good vibes your way, brave Claudia <3

  2. January 11, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Thinking and hoping for you. It will hurt but that goes away. The chance for previval doesn’t!

  3. January 11, 2011 at 5:20 am

    Claudia,

    You will certainly be in my prayers all day tomorrow! I plan on following in your footsteps sometime in the next few years and becoming a “previvor” myself. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story. God bless you.

    Marie

  4. January 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

    As a 28yo woman who just had a triple wamme( lavh, pbm, and implants), I wanna let you know that you’ll do great. I am 4 days post op. I won’t lie to you, my new foobs hurt but I am keeping my eye on the prize. :) being cancer free is my biggest desire!! I am needing to remember that, and so will you, and am being reminded of it by my family and friends frequently. I haven’t had a chance to share my story with you yet, but I plan to. Just wanted to give you a gentle hug and tell you that you ae giving yourself the greatest gift that you can. LIFE. You have many cyber sisters out here supporting you and we appreciate that you have the strength to be our voice.

  5. January 11, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Claudia: We are so proud of you. You are an inspiration to us all. Liz

  6. January 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I have been following along with your story and am so impressed by your bravery. I will keep you in my thoughts today for a safe surgery and quick recovery.

  7. January 11, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Dearest Claudia,

    What can I say other than I love you. You and your family have always been very kind to me and inspirational to me. You were there when I was new at being a step-parent to Alexandra giving me great memories of the times you and her would hang out as little kids. Now you are inspiring me with your courage.

    I thank God for you and promise to pray for you. As I have written to you, I am behind you and your family. I look forward to the next time I see you all.

    With love,
    Albert

  8. January 12, 2011 at 12:42 am

    I will be thinking of you and praying for you as you make this journey tomorrow. The anticipation I know is overwhelming- I have been there myself just 7 months ago. You will wake up tomorrow with a huge “weight off your chest” ,no pun intended!
    I wake up every day relieved that I reduced my odds of breast cancer returning.
    You are an inspiration to young women- be strong!

  9. January 13, 2011 at 4:02 am

    I hope all went well.

  10. January 15, 2011 at 5:49 am

    Claudia, You are so brave. I hope recovery is going well. <3 You are so strong and such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story. You teach and inspire with each post.

  11. January 24, 2011 at 3:49 am

    Claudia-

    I’m so glad I found your website! I am scheduled for my mastectomy on April 20. I’ve been blogging and it’s helped so much. I haven’t been tested for BRCA yet, but I have Cowden’s Syndrome and a family history as well as a history of abnormal biopsies. I felt like I was the only one in the world going through this…I’m so glad to know their are others out there who understand what I’m going through. I know you’ve already had the operation, so i hope your recovery is going well. I’ll definetely be keeping up with your website!

  12. January 27, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Claudia,
    Hope your recovery is going well. I had the same exact procedure done the following day on January 12 at 730 am by Dr Spear and Willey at Georgetown. I cant believe we were only one day apart. I was told about your story by Dr. Spear’s office. I hope all is well with you and thank you so much for sharing. In the end I realized this really was not so bad. So worth the decision I think. All the best and feel good.

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