COMPLIMENTARY EXPRESS SHIPPING FOR AUSTRALIA AND NZ (over $80) | SHOP WITH KLARNA OR AFTERPAY

Finding my Voice - Kellie's Story with Breast Cancer

Finding my Voice - Kellie's Story with Breast Cancer

Kellie, Georgia, USA.

From her career as an army veteran, to being a wife and a mother to two, Kellie has found a balance of determination and care in her life. Spending her days in the state of Georgia, Kellie surrounds herself with family, knowing the close bonds of siblings well as one of five.

Kellie shares her brave journey with us, where genetic testing led to a positive BRCA1 gene mutation, and ultimately changed Kellie's life.

WORDS BY RACHEL ABBOTT

With two breast cancer surviours in her family, Kellie was always aware of the affect it had on her life. After genetic testing, Kellie was confronted with a 75% chance of breast cancer, and an 80% chance of ovarian cancer. The difficult decision to have preventative surgeries reduced her risk to 1% and helped Kellie find her voice in a proactive decision about her life.


Tell us a little about yourself.

 I am the oldest of 5 children and it is one of the best things about my life. Our dad was in the Army and we grew up moving from place to place frequently. We learned to rely heavily on each other during those times and it is still a constant even now. We genuinely enjoy one another's company and my siblings are my best friends.  I served in the US Army for 11 years as an officer and met and married my husband during this time.  My husband's last assignment was in Georgia and we have been here now for more than 14 years. I love it here. I love the quietness and stillness of our little town. Although I was born in Georgia, I had never spent much time here because my father was also in the Army and we moved around a lot. 

Tell us about your journey with breast cancer.

My mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor and my middle sister has also had breast cancer.  Both are thriving and doing well, thankfully. I decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy and hysterectomy based on the likelihood of cancer based on my genetic screening.  I had a 75% chance of breast cancer and an 80% chance of ovarian cancer in my lifetime. By having preventative surgeries, I reduced my risk to 1%.

 Can you talk about your journey with genetic testing?

My primary care physician initially asked me about genetic testing many years ago; nearly 5 years before I actually made the decision to have the test. I brushed him off and promised to follow up with him about the screening soon. Five years later at an OB-GYN appointment, after reviewing my family history, the physician's assistant was incredibly persistent about me being screened.  I tried to push it off again, but I'm so glad that I decided to take the test. The blood draw only took a couple of minutes and it's changed my life in the best way.



"When you don't see yourself represented, you think it's not for you and genetic testing is a game-changer. While the surgeries may not be for everyone, knowing the probability of cancer based on your genetics can make a real difference."


____________________

How did you feel when you first began considering preventative surgeries?

I was so nervous when making the decision because although it felt like the right decision, it seemed like something that only white women were doing. In my research (via Google), I didn't see anyone that looked like me that considered/was considering preventative surgery the best option. Once my family and I decided that having prophylactic surgeries was the best decision for us, I felt confident and sure.  I was excited about the chance to give cancer a black eye! I purposely didn't share with many people and kept my circle small during my journey. There were still friends that did not think the surgeries were a good idea, but I consider it a personal decision. It is a decision that I made with my family in mind and one I do not regret.

Where have you found comfort and support?

I found both comfort and support from my family and close friends, initially, but that circle has expanded to my breast friends from Instagram.  Even though I have never met most of them in person, the connectivity is beyond measure, and I am grateful to share my experiences with them. It makes a difference when you know that you are not alone. 

How do you use Instagram as a tool to inspire, educated & help women of colour feel represented in the BRCA Community?

During my recovery, I began to write down all of my thoughts. As mentioned, I didn't share my journey initially because people's reactions were quite varied and I couldn't stomach the rollercoaster ride. My written thoughts birthed my blog:  www.browngirlandbrcaplus.com. The blog and by extension, Instagram, became an outlet for me to express myself during the journey.  Its larger goal was for anyone else going through this journey to see themselves represented; for them to know that genetic screening was a viable and important option.  When you don't see yourself represented, you think it's not for you and genetic testing is a game-changer. While the surgeries may not be for everyone, knowing the probability of cancer based on your genetics can make a real difference. 



  What advice would you give to other women who may be going through a similar experience?

I recommend they listen to their own voice.  Trust your gut and make the best decision for you and your family.

What has been the most challenging thing for you?

Helping people to understand what a "previvor" is. Trying to convince people why I thought it was a good idea to have the surgeries even though I didn't have cancer.


Previor : a person who does not have cancer but possesses a genetic predisposition to develop the disease; a presurviour.


Have you found any positives that are present in your life due to your experience?

I love that I have found my voice. Having made a proactive decision to save my life from cancer makes me feel like a superhero. It was such a scary decision. Before the surgeries, I could only think of what I'd lose - my breasts, my feminine parts - but I've gained so much more. I feel like I've stumbled upon my true passion and purpose in life. I am committed to spreading the word about the importance of genetic testing. It's too important to be silent.

You can follow along with Kellie's story on her blog or her Instagram.


If you are concerned about your family history of breast cancer, you can speak to your GP who may refer you to a Family Cancer Clinic for further information about your risk and the role of genetic testing.

The Blooms for Boobs Tee

We share these stories in the hopes of reaching zero deaths. By purchasing a tee, you are helping to fund the National Breast Cancer Foundation's research, support and empowerment as well as raising awareness for Australia's most commonly diagnosed cancer.



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Journal

A heartfelt Thank you
A heartfelt Thank you

We are absolutely overjoyed with the support we have had for our Blooms for Boobs fundraising campaign for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. With your help, we raised $2,878 for ground-breaking breast cancer research.

Read More

Mind over Matter - Nadine's Story with Breast Cancer
Mind over Matter - Nadine's Story with Breast Cancer

With two teenagers, a puppy and full-time jobs, Nadine and her husband have a lot to care for. Just two years ago, their world was turned upside down when Nadine found a hard lump in her left breast. Living a fast paced life meant Nadine had to "get off the freeway and onto the dirt road" into an experience she reflects on as insightful.

Read More

Check your boobs - Kylie's Story with Breast Cancer
Check your boobs - Kylie's Story with Breast Cancer

Nestled in between the ocean and quiet bushland, Kylie has found an oasis to call home with her husband and their four boys. With chickens, a vege patch and fruit trees to care for Kylie spends a lot of her time outdoors. After traveling Australia for a year in their vintage caravan, the adventurous family still enjoy taking up residence in their airstream while letting out their house to city-siders wanting a relaxing weekend escape. Kylie shares her story with us in hopes of more women checking their breasts, reminding us that cancer doesn't discriminate.

Read More