Read the story of Maysa, breast cancer previvor
“Even though I am in pain today, at some point I won’t be in pain anymore. This won’t be the defining factor of my life, it’s just a small chapter. When women make this decision, I want them to remember that.”
I’m Maysa Clay, I’m 24 years old and I’m from St. Louis in Missouri. I work in HR for a security company, and I have BRCA1.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer at a young age, she was about 33 when she found it. It didn’t make sense to her why she had breast cancer so young, so she requested that our doctor got her genes tested to see what the issue might have been. She found out that she had BRCA1, the gene mutation that heightens your risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I don’t remember how old I was, I think I was in high school, but then I knew I had to get tested as well. I got tested when I was 23 years old, and found out I am positive for the gene as well.
They give you an option: you can get a mastectomy, or you can wait and get cancer checks at different times throughout the year- but I didn’t want to do that. It’s a lot of MRI’s, a lot of needles, a lot of doctor’s appointments and a lot of medication. I didn’t want any more of my life to be taken over by BRCA, so I decided to have a mastectomy. I could have gone flat but I knew I didn’t want to live without having boobs, so it wasn’t a hard decision for me to get reconstruction. I actually only had my reconstructive surgery only this past Friday.
It’s scary, it’s definitely scary, but it was something that I had to do to have the best quality of life moving forward. The good part is that you get all these options, and you can choose what is best for you. You can choose to go flat or to have reconstruction, you can choose what style of reconstruction, you can choose how big or small you go. The choice is absolutely yours and you get to create the future that you want for yourself. As much pain as I am in now, this won’t last forever. And I won’t have to spend the rest of my life going to doctor’s appointments and getting needles poked at me to see if I have cancer. I can just live my life after this.
I don’t think there is enough conversation about BRCA. 1 out of 8 women develop breast cancer during their lifetime. If you have ten female friends, at least one or two of you is going to have breast cancer. That’s an exceptionally high number to just write off as a coincidence. If there is this gene that specifically targets that sort of thing to happen to you, I think there should be more testing for that. There are families where many women get breast cancer or it’s common for them to get cancer, they should be able to know when there is something wrong so they can be proactive instead of reactive. A lot is known about BRCA, and I know for insurance purposes that they cover about 90% because it’s considered a life-saving surgery that you have to have to survive, but there should be more testing.
I didn’t know what I would end up looking like. My doctor told me everything, and I knew what we were going for, but of course I’d never seen myself with implants before so it was scary at first. Yesterday we were able to take off all the bandages, and I got to see everything. It’s insanely swollen but I like it! It’s a very scary thing to see yourself different than it was, but I’m very happy about it.
Besides breast cancer, BRCA also heightens your risk for ovarian cancer. They say that as long as you get rid of one or the other, it prolongs the time that you can wait. I don’t have to have a hysterectomy (removal of all or parts of the uterus) until I’m about 35 or 40, so I have 10 or 15 years to make that executive decision. I still have to get cancer checks for my ovaries and uterus, but I don’t have to have those quite as often. It’s like twice a year- for my breasts it was about every three months.
Recovering will take a while, I can’t really walk so it means a lot that I have friends and family that think about me, drop off food to make sure I eat, facetime me or just sit and watch TV with me. Especially with COVID I really appreciate it when they call me or send me text messages just to let me know that they are there.
Just a chapter
Together with COVID, this has been a traumatic year. After I had my surgery on the 4th of June, I was in pain every single day until I had surgery again this past Friday (7th of August). I feel like I’m a lot stronger now, definitely stronger than I ever thought I was, and I’m a lot more resilient than I used to be. I see it as a learning experience and as a way to help others as I have already gone through it. I was fortunate enough to have a mom that had already gone through this whole process, but I know there are hundreds of women that haven’t. So I hope to continue to use this experience to help other women that weren’t as fortunate as I was. To let them know that you can love yourself again, and you can feel normal again. Because it’s really strange to not feel normal for so long. You’ll have your bad days, you’ll have your really bad days, you’ll have your good days and you’ll have your really good days. The one thing that keeps me going is that I will spend the rest of my life not thinking about cancer. Even though I am in pain today, at some point I won’t be in pain anymore. This won’t be the defining factor of my life, it’s just a small chapter. When women make this decision, I want them to remember that.
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