Hello! My name is Jenna Bowman and I live in Wisconsin. After seven years of surveillance, I am about to dive head first into previvorship and I am terrified. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. She beat it, only to be diagnosed with a second round of breast cancer eight years later in the other breast. She beat that too, and eight years after that (no, I’m not joking), she was diagnosed with cancer again; uterine. By then I was in college a couple towns over and working at Best Buy, which is where she told me. In the electronics department, to be exact. If you haven’t noticed already, my mom is a badass and survived uterine cancer as well. She’s doing great now!
I grew up seeing a whole lot of cancer in my family -- my mom three times, my aunt, and my sister. I’m told both of my grandmothers also battled breast cancer before I joined the party.
As a kid, I grew up expecting I would one day have cancer, and it just seemed normal to me.
Fast forward to 2012, I’m one year into married life. My husband and I were broke and loving life until one of my sisters called me while I was getting ready for work. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 36, the same age our mom was when she was first diagnosed. Fun fact: Her cancer diagnosis came eight years after my mom's uterine cancer diagnosis. I hate the No. 8.
After my sister was diagnosed, her doctors ran genetic testing given our strong family history. She tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation, which made them want to test her identical twin sister, my mom, and me. All four of us tested positive for the same BRCA2 mutation. Yay. To be honest, when I got the call I had a BRCA2 mutation, I really had no idea what it was. I was 27.
I started doing research on my own and wasn’t finding a whole lot. A month later I saw Angelina Jolie in the news. She had released an op-ed in The New York Times that morning called "My Medical Choice." Suddenly, I was seeing BRCA all over the news and learning more about it. Thanks Angelina!
My family leapt into action right away. My sister kicked cancers ass and went on to have an elective hysterectomy. Her twin had a preventative mastectomy and a full hysterectomy shortly after our genetic testing. My mom was ahead of us all, she already had everything taken care of at this point. This left just me, but I hadn’t had kids yet. I was newly married and kids weren’t on our radar. My new husband and I had a choice to make: schedule surgery now or choose surveillance so we could build our family.
We decided breast feeding was important, and chose to start our family. My surveillance was a mammogram every spring, a breast MRI every fall, and at least one visit to my oncologist each year. When I was pregnant, I’d have breast ultrasounds.
I’ve seen "16 and Pregnant," so I knew getting pregnant would be a breeze. Apparently, it’s not as easy when you’re actually trying. Two years later, in October 2014, we welcomed a baby girl, Harper.
We wanted two kids so when Harper turned 1, we decided to try for No. 2. After a couple more years of negative tests, I caved and called my OB and asked for the Clomid I was told I could “call in and ask for at any time.” It increases the risk for multiples, which is why I initially declined. But now, Clomid would be my Hail Mary. If I didn’t get pregnant within a month, I was calling surgeons.
I picked up my Clomid on Thursday and on Saturday I threw a pregnancy test in my cart at Target on a whim. After our Target run, we went downtown to check out the local art fair. I bought this fun shirt that says “Fridays are for fish frys and old fashioneds.” When we got home, I took the test. Two lines. I tucked my alcohol reference T-shirt in the back of my dresser and pulled out my stretchy pants. I never took the Clomid.
We welcomed Oliver on March 22, 2019 and I had a mammogram three weeks postpartum. I’m breastfeeding, so you can only imagine what was going through my head up until THAT appointment.
Was I going to make a mess in the mammogram room?
Should I warn the tech so she can throw on a poncho?
Will my insurance cover any detail clean up charges?? That poor tech. Luckily, I didn’t leak and my tech told me she is retiring in May. Was it me??
Now that my family is complete, it’s time for me to take control of my health. I know I will need to stop breastfeeding three months prior to surgery, so I’m not sure if I’ll schedule surgery for later this year or wait until January 2020. For any of you doing the math in your head, yes, 2020 is year No. 8. No pressure, Jenna.
If you want to follow along on my journey, I am femail_previvor on Instagram.