My name is Lacey Prestay and I’m a 26-year-old previvor from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I am BRCA-1 positive and underwent a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction in 2016 at age 25 due to a heavy family history of breast cancer.
No one knows the proper etiquette when a tragedy happens. Some people cry, some laugh. Others ignore the issue, others talk about it. I have always been a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. You may not be able to explain it, but at this moment your life is being sculpted by a power much greater than yourself.
As I tell my story, I wholeheartedly believe my life has taken many twists and turns, only to have me end up right where I am at this point in time to share my journey with the world.
When life hands you lemons you make lemonade, right? What happens when life potentially tries to take away your “lemons?” The BRCA-1 mutation is that lemon-stealing demon in my story. My father’s side of the family is heavily impacted mostly by breast cancer, but also by ovarian cancer. My grandmother and two aunts were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 30s. My cousin was diagnosed at 29. Another aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her late 40s. Four out of the five women listed passed away from cancer and all had something in common: testing positive for the BRCA-1 mutation.
It was obvious our family was genetically different. As testing the remaining family members began, another cousin and my father were found to also be positive for this mutation. Knowing you have a parent with the mutation gives you a 50/50 chance of inheriting the mutation, but if the gene is passed on, it holds an 87 percent chance of breast cancer and a 50+ percent of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime. Men can also carry and pass the BRCA-1 mutation; it is a misconception that they cannot.
In 2015, after my grandmother passed away from two bouts of colon cancer when I was 24-years-old. In years prior, I had been in contact with a genetic counselor, due to our extensive family history. She had told previously that it was my choice when I wanted to be tested. She recommended me waiting until I was established in my life before finding out this potentially life alternating news. I felt like I was ready to find out my fate. After a simple blood test, I found out that I was positive for the BRCA-1 mutation. Just like that, I went from just being me, to being a previvor. A previvor is a person with has a genetic predisposition to cancer but does not yet have the disease.
After finding out this news, initially I had feelings of sadness and fear. Could my life possibly be cut short due to the disease that took many other members of my family away from us? What were my options since discovering this genetic mutation in my body? There were two major options for me: checkups in six-month increments to monitor my breasts and remain on the lookout for any cancer or to have a preventative double mastectomy to help drastically reduce the chance of developing breast cancer.
I went through one round of preventative checks, and six months later, made my decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. This decision was not made easily, but I knew it was the best decision for myself and my future family. I made the choice to go public with my decision and to share my experiences on my social media pages, as well as begin my own blog titled: “Looking Good in Your Genes.”
My family, friends and coworkers were all very supportive and helped make light of the situation. At least once a day for six months, my breasts were the topic of many conversations. They threw me a boob-voyage party, complete with a “bye bye boobies” cake. They even had a bet going on how much my breasts weighed after they were removed - six pounds in case anyone was wondering!
My reconstruction process started and in heat of the presidential election of 2016, my mantra quickly became “Make Lacey Boobs Again.” My expanders were very hard and many apologies were given to anyone I hugged, as they felt like two boulders on my chest. It rapidly became normal for my boobs to be touched or felt up. At the doctor’s office, I wouldn’t even wear my gown to cover up. My mom would always be shocked at how comfortable I was just “whipping them out!”
March 1, 2017 I had my implant exchange surgery and my new squishy breasts felt just like normal ones!
I am 18 months post-surgery. If people were not aware of about my surgery beforehand, they wouldn’t be able to tell a difference in my chest. I have been able to decrease my breast cancer risk tremendously, all while spreading awareness about genetic testing. I have been able to cry and sometimes feel pissed off at the situation, as well as laugh and be happy that I had the opportunity to take my health into my own hands. I had a chance to beat cancer before it beat me and it feels damn good!
I guess you could say, I turned MY lemons into lemonade!