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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Angelina and Helen: big risks; big decisions

The actress Angelina Jolie has revealed that she`s had a preventative double mastectomy to reduce drastically her risk of developing breast cancer. Her risk was rated as very high. It`s one of the biggest, most sensitive and emotional decisions any woman can that nurse Helen had to consider too, because of the high incidence of the disease in her family: my family. Here`s a reminder of my brave cousin Helen`s story, in her words .

"Having my annual check ups was always an interrupted night's sleep and that absolute breath holding moment until the doctor said everything was clear. I knew this was my breast cancer prevention. Then a month before my annual check I dreamt that I had a breast lump, I even dreamt the location. It was one of those dreams that when you wake up for a split second you think it may be real life. I was so disturbed by my dream that I checked myself...and there it was. It wasn't an easy find, and the consultant couldn't believe I'd found it as it was right against my rib cage." 

"So all in that one afternoon I had mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsy and a diagnosis of a grade 3 invasive tumour. It absolutely blew my mind. I like to feel I am Mrs Together but I could never have imagined how that diagnosis would have reacted with me. I instantly felt like my breast was filled with a growing dog poo or some filthy alien that had to be removed at all costs.When my biopsy results came back that it wasn't cancer, I actually felt little relief. The diagnosis was still affecting me greatly. After my lumpectomy and subsequent all clear I knew that I never ever wanted to go through that experience again, and  I knew I didn't want to have to tell my husband, my children, my sister, my mum that I had breast cancer ever again. 

"It was then a year of research, finding my dream team of surgeons, choosing my surgery type, the best support network and counselling, that I had my preventative bilateral mastectomies."

"I was emotionally and physically ready. I had every piece of information to hand, I had logistics sorted. It wasn't until I was recovering from my surgery that it really hit me how BIG it was. Nothing can prepare you for that. Immediately after the surgery you live for the minute, the absolute helplessness of the days after major surgery are overpowering but you have to just get on with it as the deed is done and you don't have an option but to do anything else. It was tough, really tough. I went through times of feeling like a freak show, being a medical display mannequin! 

"Now, I am back to life as normal. The relief of no more scans, no more 'back of your mind' fears is more than I could have hoped for. Knowing my risk is now about 1% is a fantastic feeling." 

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Find out more about breast cancer in families, genetic factors & risk-reducing surgery

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