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This is how my daughters motivated me to remove both of my breasts

To: My daughters

From: Andrea Lorfel-Jakubus (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To my daughters,

Right now, Maddie, you are three, and Josie, you are two.

I don’t know how old you will be when you read this letter, but when you do, I hope you can say I was at your first days of school. I hope you can say I saw you go to high school and college, and I was there for your first boyfriend. And I hope you can say I am someone you can talk to, someone that you trust.

But that’s not all.

More than just being a part of your life, I hope that my presence on your journey sets an example for the way in which you live your life.

See, way before each of you were born, during my childhood, unfortunately, I was sexually abused. For many years, I struggled with depression and eating disorders. I didn’t feel like I had control over my body, and I didn’t feel like I had control over my life. For a long time, I was in and out of treatment.

Then, when I was about 23 years old, my grandmother, your great-grandmother, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was devastated. We were very close.

Doctors tested her for a gene mutation called BRCA, which significantly raises a woman’s risk of developing Breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, she tested positive. Then, my mother, your grandmother, also tested positive. Our family didn’t tell me anything about the gene until my mother tested positive and suggested I get tested. I felt blindsided, and I didn’t have a good understanding of the gene or its consequences. So, when I tested positive, I felt completely overwhelmed. Then, my grandmother passed away, and my mental health spiraled, which led me to be hospitalized.

As I tried to manage my PTSD, depression and eating disorder, I buried my head in the sand regarding the BRCA gene mutation I carried. I stopped going to the gynecologist, and I didn’t learn about my options.

When I met your dad, I told him about the gene and how I wanted to have children as soon as possible just in case I did get cancer. But still, I wasn’t yet thinking about what I could do to prevent cancer. Then, you two came into my life, and my whole world changed. I couldn’t imagine both of you growing up without me, without a mom.

I couldn’t imagine both of you growing up without me, without a mom.

Once you, Maddie, were born, I started going to the doctor regularly. Every six months, they checked me for Breast cancer. Maddie, you weren’t even a year old when they found a lump. After a mammogram, they sent me to get an MRI and ultrasound. Those days waiting for the results were really scary.  Fortunately, it was a false alarm. It was a cyst, not a tumor. But after that situation, doctors kept finding masses. Even though they all turned out to be benign, I was on edge every time I went to get checked.

Andrea with her daughter, Maddie and Josie

Finally, I decided to do something about it. Seven weeks ago, I underwent a double mastectomy, and I removed both my breasts, significantly lessening my chances of developing Breast cancer.

 It was an incredibly difficult decision, and these last few weeks have not been easy.  

After spending a week in ICU, I was nervous that both of you would be scared of me when I got home. But instead, you each were happy to see me.

Maddie, you keep asking,” Mommy, are you feeling better now? Are your booboos feeling better?”

Josie, you don’t really understand what is going on, but I can’t pick you up yet. So, you sit on my lap, and you cuddle with me. It’s my favorite thing in the world.

Also, your dad and grandmother have been tremendously helpful and supportive. Grandma is staying with us to help take care of me while daddy is at work. Your dad has helped out around the house and with taking care of each of you, cooking dinner, and taking us for Halloween costumes.

Andrea with her oldest daughter, Maddie

Right now, I am still in pain. I still have open wounds, and I don’t feel whole. There are days where I cry all day. And I still have another surgery to get through in a few months.

But I know I made the right decision, and I am proud of myself for it.

That’s why when each of you turns 18, I want you to get tested.

Whatever the outcome is, our family will be there for you, just like you have been there for me.

None of this has been easy, but after years of an abuser making me feel like I had no power over my life or body, this journey has shown me otherwise.

I don’t have to be a victim in life. I can be a survivor, and I can be a fighter.

I’m doing whatever I can to make sure cancer doesn’t stop me from being a present mom.  

Despite the physical pain I feel in this moment, I am empowered by the fact that I took action regarding my own well-being.

And as my wounds from the surgery heal, the scars from my abuse are finally beginning to fade. My depression and my eating disorder are both significantly better.

While I pray you won’t go through the struggles I have endured, I hope when you read this that you can say your mom taught you that whether it’s abuse, cancer, or something else, you always can take control of your body and your life.

I love you,

Mom

 

Andrea Lorfel-Jakubus
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