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21 Days Post-Op: My Journey to Prevent Ovarian Cancer

I am no longer a surgical patient.

Just three weeks after my hysterectomy and surgery to remove my ovaries, my doctor has cleared me to take back my life. He said I am healing perfectly and I can even resume exercising. I don’t have to go back to his office again until my next regular gynecological exam  in six months. And, here’s the most exciting part: my days of routine blood tests and radiological screenings to detect ovarian cancer are over. Done.

Ever since I tested positive for BRCA1 four years ago (and to be honest, ever since my mother died of ovarian cancer seven years before that) I have been seeing a team of cancer-prevention specialists. I’ve been getting CA-125 blood tests twice a year and a transvaginal sonogram once a year.

So, not only has removing my ovaries brought down my risk of developing ovarian cancer to about 1.5% (from 40-60%) and liberated me from years of real fear – the operation has also freed me from being poked and prodded on a recurring basis. I truly can’t tell you how thrilled I am that I had this surgery. I am free!

But wait. BRCA1 is not done with me yet. Even though I have cut my risk of breast cancer in half by having my ovaries removed, women with BRCA1 have up to an 85% lifetime chance of developing breast cancer. (The statistic for the general population is 12%). Breast cancer is still an all-too-real possibility. So, now what?

Well, because I’ve long known about my genetic predisposition to these cancers, I’ve always gone for routine breast MRIs and mammograms, so
I’ll continue that. I also see a medical oncologist once a year who specializes in breast cancer, so I’ll keep seeing her. But looming in the future is another operation I will have to consider: an elective bi-lateral mastectomy to prevent breast cancer.

For now though, I’ll continue to heal and enjoy the holidays. I’ll even take the time to walk in the woods and throw snowballs with my children. And when I toast the New Year in a few days, I’ll drink to my new, ovarian-cancer-free-life.

One day at a time. One day at a time. Happy New Year!

**Since my recovery from cancer-prevention surgery has been so wonderfully ordinary, this will be my last Blog specifically related to my operation on November 29th, 2007. Of course, I’ll keep you updated should anything develop I think is worth sharing.

Please keep your comments, questions, and emails coming. I’d love to keep this important — too often secret — conversation going. It’s
important we talk. These are, quite literally, life and death decisions. They deserve and require public discussion.

My focus will now be on what’s ahead – my husband, my kids, and writing my next book. Thank you for sharing my journey with me

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