This week’s Sister With Vision feature is very special to me. As we all know, this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it is a disease common in the community of African American women. It is the most common cancer among African American woman and in 2013, an estimated 27,060 new cases of breast cancer and 6,080 deaths were expected to occur among African American women. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you Breast Cancer Previvor, Monique Douglas. Please read and share her amazing story.
My name is Monique Douglas. I am 25 (soon to be 26) years old. I am from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2012 in Organizational Communication. I am currently a clinical training specialist for a hospital in Baton Rouge. My mother is a two time breast cancer survivor and my grandmother, who is now deceased, was a 26 year survivor. My family history of breast cancer is very strong. When my mother was diagnosed, I was 11 years old. Although I knew what breast cancer was, I didn’t know the details. She had a lumpectomy and radiation and was back at work in 6 weeks. For all I knew, my mother was just sick. My parents didn’t make a huge deal out of everything because they didn’t want to scare me. As I got older, my mother educated me on breast cancer and I become aware of how serious it was. My mother was a big part of Susan G. Komen Baton Rouge affiliate and I volunteered numerous times over the years in high school and throughout college.
Fast forward 13 years from my mother’s first diagnosis, she called me downstairs in May of last year and told me they found cancer in the same breast and same spot as before. I was devastated. I am the only child and have no brothers and sisters that understood how I was feeling at that time, but my mom assured me everything would be okay and she was planning to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery ASAP. She found wonderful doctors in New Orleans who performed a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She did 4 rounds of chemotherapy and was then tested for the BRCA gene, this is the gene that carries mutations for breast and ovarian cancer. In October of 2014, she tested positive for the gene and as soon as she tested positive I went to my doctor to see about getting tested. In my mind, I almost knew I would test positive because of my strong family history. I was sent to a breast specialist, Dr. Hailey in Baton Rouge and he told me my percentage (chance of Breast cancer) was so high that he suggested that I have a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery within the year. I WAS FLOORED!!!! I was 24 and was planning to wait at least 5-10 years to have such a drastic surgery, but I did not hesitate with my decision. I remember him telling me “Monique it isn’t a matter of IF cancer will show up, honestly it’s a matter of WHEN.” From there he gave me recommendations for a plastic surgeon to do the reconstructive part and I started doing my research.
A few months earlier, I went with my mother to a doctor when she was trying to find a surgeon, Dr. Sadeghi in New Orleans, who really impressed me. I decided to call his office and explain my situation to them the staff was SO helpful and caring and in January I went for my consultation and scheduled my surgery in February 2015. I have a double mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction. They removed all of my breast tissue and made new breast from fat from my abdomen. All together I had 3 surgeries over 8 months and can say I do not regret my decision. My chance of breast cancer occurring went from 84-86% to 1-2% which is AMAZING. I feel and look the same way I did before the surgery besides my scars across my abdomen and on my breast and I can live better knowing how much my chances have increased. I will get ultrasounds of my breasts and ovaries every 6 months to stay on top of things just in case but will no longer need to get mammograms. Not everyone with the BRCA gene may not make the decision I made to have a double mastectomy at such a young age, but I encourage you to get checked regularly and if something doesn’t feel right go see the doctor. Nobody knows your body as well as you do.
Thank you so very much, Monique for sharing your story. It takes great courage to be so transparent with the world, on a such a sensitive subject as this. You are truly a Sister With Vision.
With Sisterly Love,