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51 Days and Counting: My Journey to Prevent Ovarian Cancer

Back in April on this blog, I wrote about my ovaries. I wrote about my fear, that one day, the same tiny nuggets that allowed me to give birth to my two young children, might actually kill me. This is not hysterical, this is my reality. Ever since my mother died of ovarian cancer in 1996 — when she was just 57 years old — I’ve been on high risk medical surveillance. I’ve been watched. Prodded. Monitored. Tested. All the while I knew that one day, no matter what I did to prevent the disease from ever taking hold, I would have to have surgery. My team of pre-cancer doctors urged me to get my ovaries removed by the time I was 40 — when I was done having children — just in case the cancer is looming, somewhere, deep inside of me. Well, it’s now time. I am 37 and have made the decision to finally do it.

My surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, November 28, 2007. I will have the operation at New York-Presbyterian, the University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell. And I’ve decided, since I’m having this operation anyway, to get everything “down there” removed while I’m at it. So, not only will they be removing my ovaries, they’ll also be taking out my fallopian tubes and uterus. Yes, I’m having a hysterectomy as well. I figure, why leave anything behind that could leave my children without their mom? My 7-year-old son, Jake, and my 5-year-old daughter, Lexi, want me. They need me. They don’t care if I go into menopause early.

I used to think I was being drastic. Eleven years ago when my mother was dying and the procedure was first mentioned to me, I didn’t know any other women who were also making this incredibly difficult decision. Genetic testing to determine if you were predisposed to getting breast and ovarian cancer was new — so new — that this kind of DNA testing wasn’t being widely reported yet. BRCA1 and BRCA2 didn’t mean anything to my friends and relatives. I was a renegade. But now times are different. I know a lot of women, just like me, who are opting for surgery. And there is calm, for me, in these increased numbers. Just last month, The New York Times put pre-cancer surgery on the front page. The 33-year-old woman featured in the article decided to have a mastectomy to ward off cancer. She has BRCA1, just like me.

So, with 51 days to go until my operation, I am devoting my blog to my journey. Twice a week leading up to my surgery, I will try to post here about how I am feeling, what I am doing to prepare, what I am telling my children. I will also find helpful links that might just help you on your voyage. And, after the operation, I will let you know — as soon as I’m able — what surgical menopause is really like.

Here we go…..

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