First, I would like to thank Angelina Jolie Pitt for sharing her experience and knowledge to help others, most recently in Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery.
Elie Wiesel once said, “Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty.” I absolutely agree!
I am a breast cancer survivor diagnosed at age 31 (5 years ago) and a mom of 2 young boys. I am also BRCA1 positive. I have been trying to help others by also sharing my experience and knowledge. I had a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction, and chemotherapy. I am now facing tough decisions regarding my ovaries. It is wonderful to learn from others going though similar experiences. If you’ve ever had a medical issue, you know there are a variety of opinions on treatment, prevention, surveillance, and more. Angelina says, “There is more than one way to deal with any health issue. The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally.” I appreciate Angelina Jolie and all of the others that have chosen to be open about their health and share personal details.
I feel as though my ovaries are a ticking time bomb. At the age of 36, I’ve been advised by some doctors to keep my ovaries for a few more years to delay the onset of surgical menopause. Not only is surgical menopause uncomfortable, there are detrimental effects to the body such as bone density loss and heart issues. This is why many women are given low dose hormones temporarily after surgery.
So, here I am sitting on this decision like many other BRCA+ women. Yes, I am getting regular scans and blood work, but as Angelina Jolie pointed out, these tests are not great indicators of early ovarian cancer. It is all we have for now.
Just to pass some information along… One theory on the origins of ovarian cancer is that it may begin to develop in the fallopian tubes and then spread. I found out about a study at MD Anderson for BRCA women (Prophylactic Salpingectomy With Delayed Oophorectomy). In the study, women first have only the fallopian tubes removed and then a few years later have the ovaries removed. This delays surgical menopause a few more years, but still perhaps protects the ovaries.
Good luck to all of the women out there facing these tough decisions. My thoughts are with you.
Picture of me last summer almost 5 years after breast cancer diagnosis.
If you know anyone having a mastectomy or other breast surgery, these breast cancer recovery shirts are a must-have.
Rachel K. Belkin, M.Ed, is a journalist and writer with over 15 years of expertise in travel, business and marketing education, health, and local Austin, Texas events.
With a Master's degree in education from Texas State University and a Business Foundations Certification from The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, Rachel's extensive background is highlighted by her published works and contributions to prestigious publications, including HuffPost, Hometalk, Matador Network, AP News, and MSN.com, as well as on her own platforms, Rachel K. Belkin, Elkin Bay, and Probe the Globe.
Beyond her accomplishments in writing, Rachel is a sought-after educator, teaching businesses effective marketing strategies and content creation techniques. Notably, she successfully built a blog from scratch in 2008, ultimately selling it for six figures in 2021.
Rachel's commitment to advocacy is exemplified by her role on the Breast Cancer Resource Center Advisory Council, particularly contributing to the success of the Young Survivor Project. Rachel is also an experienced public speaker with appearances on TV segments for Fox 7 Austin, KXAN, and CBS Austin and as a speaker at conferences and professional networking meetings for business owners and cancer survivors.