Cancer mum sacrifices healthy breast and ovaries in a desperate bid to watch kids grow up
A brave mum has chosen to have her ovaries removed, along with both breasts after being diagnosed with breast cancer and then the BRCA gene in a bid to live long enough to watch her kids grow up.
Katie Parker, 27, from Plymouth, was diagnosed with breast cancer January last year after she found a hard 50-pence-sized lump in her breast.
The waitress then found out she had the rare BRCA gene – a condition that mutates genes leaving them more susceptible to cancer – months after having her one breast removed in March this year.
In a desparate bid to watch her children grow up and reduce her chances of the cancer returning, Katie made the brave decision to have her healthy second breast and ovaries removed.
Thankfully the operation was a success and last week had her breasts reconstructed from muscles in her back.
Katie said: “I was left feeling terrified when tests relieved I had the cancer gene BRCA.
“My first thought was that I wasn’t going to see my children grow up if I risked my cancer returning.
“I decided to have my healthy breast and ovaries removed and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
“I had my other breast removed after I found a 50-pence-sized lump on it.
“It didn’t hurt at all so I presumed it wasn’t anything to be worried about, I never thought I could get cancer at 26.”
Doctors first thought the lump was a harmless but one month later after a biopsy, in January 2014, Katie was told she had grade three breast cancer.
Thinking of her two children Marshall and Phoebe, now seven and four, she decided she wanted the whole breast removed in a bid to stop it returning.
Ten days later Katie opted for a mastectomy on her right breast after it was found that two-thirds of her breast was affected by the cancer.
Katie added: “After recovering from the operation I underwent six months of intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“It was a difficult time and took a lot out of me, but fortunately my husband Martin was there to take care of me.
“During that time he was my rock and kept me strong during the worst of my battle with cancer.
“I hoped that was the end of my ordeal and I could return to normality.
“But sadly in November after gene testing it was revealed that I had the BRCA gene – which genetically mutates cells increasing the likelihood of cancer.”
Katie then made the agonising decision to have her second breast, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to reduce the possibility of cancer returning.
Katie said: “When I was diagnosed with BRCA I didn’t know how bad it was I just knew I had to to have my ovaries and breasts removed for my children.
“I was devastated it was like being told I had cancer all over again.
“My options were risk it and keep my ovaries and gamble on the hope that cancer wouldn’t return.
“For me it was no question at all, I have kids and I needed to see them grow up.
“I’ve been told my chances of cancer coming back now have massively dropped.
“Even when I had cancer the first time round I tried not to hide it from my children, they even helped me cut off my long hair.
“I didn’t want them to be scared or to freak out when all my hair fell out so I put my hair in pigtails and let them chop it.
“Shortly after all my hair fell out in the shower, even my eyebrows, it was only my eyelashes that somehow clung on for dear life.
“I was always really healthy working out four times a week, I avoided processed meals, never smoked and don’t really drink so it really shocked me when I was diagnosed with cancer.
“The when I was told about having BRCA I was really terrified.”
Katie has no family history of breast cancer or the BRCA gene.
She added: “I never thought this would happen to me, I have no idea where the cancerous gene has come from, even my twin sister doesn’t have it.
“Since the operation I have to take a lot of pills and have started the menopause early.
“But I’m still alive and have a future with my children and soon to be husband Martin.”
Since recovering from the operations, Katie decided to have her breasts reconstructed, surgeons took muscles and skin from her back to help create a new pair.
The surgery happened last week and will take a minimum of two months to recover.
Later in the year she has the option to have nipples constructed and coloured with tattoo ink.
Katie said: “Currently it’s pretty painful to move but it will get easier and I can’t wait to be better and have a more effeminate shape again.
“I can’t do a lot at the moment because the muscles they took from my back are really tight so it’s difficult to move.
“I have a lot of scarring around my back and breasts so I’m thinking of having a tattoo of flowers to mark moving on from the part of my life.
“Before having the surgery I did wonder whether I needed them but it will make me feel a lot happier and help my clothes to fit.
“I used to have to be careful about what kind of clothes I’d wear but soon I’ll be able to wear what I want.
“I’m hoping to get married in September too so I knew it would be great to have breasts for my wedding and look more like I used to before cancer.
“Some people think you’d only have your breasts reconstructed for your partner but this is completely for me and so I feel happier.
“I know Martin would love me either way, with or without breasts.”
Katie found help through the Younger Breast Cancer Network – a support group of young people battling cancer.
You can follow her journey on www.facebook.com/Katsjourney2014?fref=ts