Mom Makes Astonishing Sacrifice to Avoid Getting Breast Cancer

Inspiring 18

pink ribbon buttonsAllison Gilbert does not have breast cancer. But she got a preventative mastectomy anyway. And she did it for her kids. Allison explains her decision in an essay for CNN:

The decision to have surgery without having cancer wasn't easy, but it seemed logical to me. My mother, aunt and grandmother have all died from breast or ovarian cancer, and I tested positive for the breast cancer gene.

Put in those stark terms, I can see why Allison would want to take preventative measures. But wow, a pre-emptive mastectomy is so radical! And it's not the only radical procedure Allison got.

Before she even thought about a mastectomy, Allison had her ovaries removed, too -- after she had two children. She and her husband decided they were finished having children at that point. But having her ovaries removed meant going through menopause at the age of 37.

Allison deliberated a long time over the idea of getting a mastectomy. And then she agonized over how to do it and with which surgeons. Worst of all, she couldn't talk these questions over with her mother or aunt. Both had died from cancer. And that's what finally clicked for Allison.

Then a moment of bittersweet grace clarified what I needed to do. It struck me that the reason I couldn't speak to my mother and aunt is exactly the reason I had to have the surgery.

She didn't want her own children to face life's most difficult challenges without her the way she was facing them without her mother. There have been some incredibly exciting recent developments in the way breast cancer is treated. But Allison didn't want to wait for them because, as she put it, "I love them [her children and husband] more than my chest."

I'm still amazed. Getting a mastectomy is a big deal -- way more complicated than I'd ever realized, now that I've read Allison's story. She's lucky that she had the resources to do this and that she could afford to have options. Do any health insurance companies cover preventative mastectomies -- and the reconstruction surgery? I wonder.

But I think Allison would have literally cut off her own breasts even if she couldn't afford reconstruction surgery just to keep herself alive a little longer for her family. That's something I think almost any mom can understand. It's not an easy sacrifice, but it's a worthwhile sacrifice.

Would you be willing to do what Allison did if you tested positive for a cancer gene?


Image via Tessa Ann's Buttons/Flickr

breasts, cancer, women's issues, in the news


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Florence Blantz

Absolutely not.  I won't even get tested for the gene (even after losing my mom and a few aunts to the disease), and my breast doctor agrees with me.  What most people don't realize is, you can have breast tissue in other parts of your body not anywhere near your breast.  My doctor thinks it's ridiculous for someone to willingly be mutilated and still run the risk of getting cancer, and I totally agree. 

Kaide... KaidensMama1107

breast tissue in other parts of the body? wow Florence I didn't know that...

linzemae linzemae

My friends mom did this and her insurance even paid for a new set of breasts for her. 

bills... billsfan1104

Just because you have the breast cancer gene, doesnt mean you will get it. I tested negative for it and I have breast cancer. I dont think insurance should have to pay for it, because she did an elective procedure.

Kasey Comingore

i don't blame her at all.  if i had a family history like that, i just might do it too.  i lost my mom to cancer (pancreatic, not breast) and if i thought there might be a chance i could  spare my son the loss i felt, there is nothing i wouldn't do.

nonmember avatar Suze

I'd do it in a heartbeat. My mother died of breast cancer. She did not have the breast cancer gene. My breast do not define me and if there's a chance that they could kill me, they're not that important. Kudos to her for taking charge of her health and being proactive for the benefit of herself and her family.

littl... littlelambe2

Nope. Just cause you test positive for the gene doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get the cancer.

Rosas... RosasMummy

The point is that she is greatly reducing her risks of the gene being expressed by having the double mastectomy, she might never have got it anyway but with the breast cancer gene shed rather not take the risk, which is sensible. Even if there is breast tissue in other parts of the body (which im not sure of, never heard of that before and I've done a lot of studying on cancer) , by remOving most of that breast tissue your reducing the chance of breast cancer still, because there are less cells=less opportunity for a mutation to an oncogene

Maria Hunt

It's not the fact that there is "breast tissue" throughout the rest of your body. It's the fact that the surgeon is not able to remove every last cell that is identified by your body as a breast tissue cell. They will do their best, but it is impossible. There is also the fact that you may already have dormant breast cancer cells in your system already that have not activated "somewhere". Yes they do normally grow in the breast. However they do also grown in the lymphatic system. You can grow tumors that when sampled are DNA marked as "breast cancer" even through they developed in a different part of the body. That is why they often remove the ovaries and even the uturus in woman with the genetic markers for breast cancer.

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