Chelle's Story

BRCA through a Mothers eyes

In December of 2008 I sat with my daughter, Ash, as she faced the devastating news that she was indeed BRAC1 positive, a faulty gene passed down on her paternal side which placed her at about 90% risk of breast cancer and high risk of Ovarian Cancer. As much as I tried to be brave for Ash I felt like I was dying inside, I had no idea what this meant for Ash’s future. My beautiful firstborn was about to face the biggest challenge in her 20 years of life and I felt helpless, I couldn’t fix this.

The months that followed were challenging for Ash. Not only coming to terms with what being BRCA positive meant, but every six months she had either an ultrasound or MRI to monitor her breasts. It didn’t take long before Ash knew she couldn’t live like this, with the uncertainty, the knowledge that cancer could strike at any time. She feared breast cancer and the treatment that would follow should she succumb.

Within a few months Ash had made the decision to have her healthy breasts removed for the sake of her future. I wasn’t surprised at her decision, it scared me but I fully supported her choice, how could I not? I want my daughter to live a long healthy life, no mother could even begin to imagine a life without her child.

While we waited for the surgery date, I researched as much information as possible, read books, searched the internet and gleaned any bit of information where-ever possible. I needed to be empowered to enable me to cope with this and to be able to support Ash as best as I could. On this journey we discovered Gift of Knowledge and also made lifelong friends who truly understood what we were going through emotionally. We really felt we weren’t alone and that helped immensely.

On the 18th February 2011 we spent our final minutes together, holding hands and trying to laugh off the reality of what she was about to do, Ash was very scared and so was I. My beautiful brave daughter was about to embark on a life changing journey by having a prophylactic double mastectomy, removal of her now healthy, but possibly one day, deadly breasts, followed by reconstruction using expanders. She was the youngest woman in New Zealand to undergo such drastic surgery at 22 years, and not everyone agreed she was making the right decision at such a young age, but for Ash it was her only decision, not once did she second guess her choice.

When the call came through that the surgery was over, it was like a huge wave of relief, what we had worked towards for so long was over, Ash now could look forward to a better future, one with a lot less risk.

We continue with the journey of recovery, and in a few months Ash will be the proud owner of permanent silicone implants. There has been pain, tears and a lot of laughter along the way, but Ash has been an inspiration to many with her positive attitude, there are no regrets even on the days where there aren’t many smiles, but those days are few. It’s been a special journey, one that Ash and I have shared together and it has strengthened our bond as Mother and Daughter.

By no means is she home free, there are more roads to cross in the future to protect herself from Ovarian Cancer, but my wish now is for Ash to be able to move forward, enjoy life and all it has to offer, until the day comes when once again we will stand up together and fight BRCA.

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