Category Archives: BRCA

BRCA Journey Part 3

Hi friends,

I’ve been getting some requests for updates so here it is, because, who doesn’t love a good hysterectomy story?! Am I right? If you haven’t read my previous posts regarding my BRCA1 status you can start at the start here and here.

I had my BSO (bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (say that 3xs real fast)) with complete hysterectomy in early July. Josh and I drove the 3 hours to St. Louis the night before and stayed in a hotel so we would be fresh for our 5:30am appointment. Dad and Donna wrangled the kids at home while we ate loads of sushi and enjoyed a nice walk around the city. Guys, did you know you can use surgery as an excuse for a date night?! I had no idea. I’ve currently scheduled 15 more surgeries for this year…just kidding…it is tempting though…


Look at us out with no kids!!!

This might seem a little silly, but I asked Josh and Bear to buy me a stuffed puppy dog to offer me some comfort at the hospital. My mom had a beanie baby dog she took with her to surgery and chemo appointments that she appropriately named Toughie. It just seemed fitting that I have my own ‘Toughie’ as I go along on this wild ride. Big Brother picked him out and named him Spokey and I love him.


This was taken in Pre-op while we waited for the Doctor. Josh and I made a ton of really inappropriate jokes regarding the surgery. I can’t share them with you, but trust me, we’re real comedians.

Surgery went great. My doctors were incredible and I had the most wonderful nurse. Guys, a good nurse is a treasure – I think that’s scripture right? Well, it should be. Dr. Easley said that everything went well and the biopsy they did, as part of their standard procedure for BRCA patients, came out clean. I did have a couple of cysts, but ‘PEW! PEW! PEW!’ (That’s me pretending to blast them away with my lazer gun) those jerks don’t get a chance to turn into cancer.


As I recovered at the hospital I had a crazy case of the shakes as the anesthesia wore off and severe dry mouth. I drank a ton of water, peed (that’s a very important moment apparently) and then I was released to come home. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. The 3 hour drive wasn’t too bad until we got to the gravel road leading to our house…it was a bit bumpy for my liking.




After. I don’t know what was in that IV but it was some gooooood stuff.

The first few days I needed help getting in and out of bed and I slept a TON. I kept to my pain med schedule, but after about a week I dropped the stronger stuff and only needed Ibuprofen and soon I was getting around pretty good. Recovery was tricky because I felt so good by week 3 that I started to do too much around the house and had to have Josh rush home from work early due to some sharp pain. But all was well; the nurse at my doctor’s office said these pains were totally normal. Still, I slowed it down a bit. I’m super thankful for my Dad, Donna, Josh and my Aunt Renee who all showed up in a big way to help this momma out. A few gals from my Mom’s group also brought by some delicious meals to bless our family. I can’t thank you ladies enough for taking such good care of us! And I’m convinced that the cheesecake my Aunt Enid sent helped tremendously in my recovery!

So…now what? I have at least one more surgery to go, my Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy (PBM) that I have tentatively set for mid June of 2018 (I’ll do another post soon explaining that in more detail). I’ve just had a mammogram that came back ‘all clear’ and I will need to have another one done before my PBM. (If I opted to not have the PBM I would need to monitor like a hawk; alternating mammograms and MRIs every 6 months for the rest of my life…no thanks.) I am calling a Dr. soon to set up my first colonoscopy…insert whatever joke you’re thinking of here…I’ll probably have to have one yearly to monitor for colon cancer. Sounds like a real pain in the butt (I’m sorry!! I had to!!) I will also need to see a dermatologist every year to check for melanoma. As awful as this all sounds I’m beyond grateful that I know that I have this gene mutation and that I have this opportunity to be proactive.

I am also super thankful for a Facebook group I’m part of called BRCA Sisterhood. This group has been such a lifesaver for me in terms of becoming more educated on what to expect during surgery, how to navigate life afterward and what areas to be more proactive in. I’ll offer some info below for anyone new to this journey in hopes that it will offer some direction or help. The FORCE website is also a great place to get more info !

Early Menopause : so far so good. I am having hot flashes, but I have been lucky in that they are not bad. Some women suffer terribly from them, but mine are manageable. I bought a fun hand fan to take with me when I’m out and about so I at least have a little relief. It makes me look really cool.


Exercise: We bought a treadmill in March and I set a goal of walking a mile a day. Realistically I walk 3-5 miles a week, but I increased the incline periodically and was at a 9 incline before surgery. I believe that being a bit more fit was super beneficial in my recovery. Exercising for 30 minutes a day is a great way to stay healthy and keep cancer at bay. I’m back on the treadmill and am working my way back up to a 9.

Scars: I now have 5 small scars in a rainbow on my upper abdomen where the procedure was done (Let me know if you would like to see pics and I’ll PM you). I’m not bothered by scars, but some women are. I’ve seen other women have this surgery with less scarring (the belly button is used) so talk to your Dr. about your options if you are considering this surgery.


Bone & Heart Health: Having ovaries removed at a young age can increase bone loss and lead to osteoporosis and can also increase risk for heart disease. A lot of women opt to have hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to offset this risk as well as keep menopause at bay. For now, I have opted to not receive HRT because it can increase my risk for breast cancer. I might decide to take HRT after I have my PBM, but for now it is off the table. So what do I do in the meantime?

Every year I will meet with my PCP to have blood work done to check my calcium levels and heart health. I will be taking vitamins and supplements to help strengthen my system to stay on top of my overall health. Here’s what I’m taking:

Women’s Multivitamin

Lysine: strengthens immune system, helps in the absorption of calcium, can help reduce hot flashes.

Black Cohosh: can help reduce hot flashes and aid in…uh…dryness.

Vitamin D3: Per my blood work I was a bit low in vitamin D3 and my multivitamin doesn’t offer as much as my Dr. prescribed.

DIM: Promotes healthy hormonal balance and produces good estrogen and decreases bad estrogen

Melatonin: Y’all this has been a God send! I haven’t slept well since I was pregnant with Bear and I’ve gotten some really great sleep since starting on this.

Fish Oil: promotes heart health

Almond Milk: I’m drinking some every day in a super yummy smoothie to boost my calcium consumption.

Peppermint Essential Oil: I’ve started applying a drop to the inside of my ankles daily to help with hot flashes and it seems to be working. I didn’t have one hot flash last night!! We’ll see if it continues to work.

Well, that’s about it for now. As always, you guys are the best. There are a lot of women going through this who just don’t have much support or encouragement. I’m so blessed by you all. Your prayers, texts, gifts and you just reading this means the world to me. Thanks for going on this journey with me friends! And if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!!!!


BRCA Journey Part 2

Friends, I am so overwhelmed by your love and support for me and my little family. I’ve always known that I have the best friends in the world and you just keep confirming it over and over. Thank you for all of your offers to help when we need it, phone calls to check in on us, texts, gifts and prayers. I love you more than I could ever say.

So, here’s the rundown.

On Thursday morning at 6:30am I opened the car door to start on my way to St. Louis. My dreamboat of a husband surprised me with a birthday/road-trip basket in the front seat complete with snacks for the journey, hand written bday card, and FitBit. 

Swoon! He’s a keeper. I had to run back inside and give him another smooch before leaving.

I popped in my favorite ‘Jimmy Eat World’ mix and headed toward St. Louis for my first doctor’s appointment. I stopped in Rolla to pick up my Aunt Renee (my Mom’s sister) and we zipped on up to the Women’s Oncology Center. (Thanks for coming along Renee! It was so great spending time with you and meant a ton having you there.)

We met with Dr. Kevin Easley, a Gynecological Oncologist, and discussed my BRCA1 status and desire to start preventative procedures. Dr. Easley was great; I felt very comfortable with him and his entire staff. He jokingly deemed me a ‘boring’ patient (a good thing!) and went over my options.

  • Have tubes and ovaries removed only (salpingo-oophorectomy). There are some possible pros to electing to choose just this procedure, but a major con is that it leaves a higher risk for peritoneal cancer (cancer of the stomach lining).

  • Have a complete hysterectomy (removal of uterus & cervix) as well as a salpingo-oophorectomy.

To reduce my risk as much as possible I have opted for a complete hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy. Dr. Easley went over the entire surgical procedure which will be done laparoscopically and will most likely be an out patient procedure. A biopsy will be done on what is removed while I am still under anesthesia to verify that no cancer is present. We don’t anticipate finding any cancer; the biopsy is just standard procedure. If cancer is found in a patient during surgery the Dr. can immediately begin a more intense treatment immediately while the patient is still under anesthesia.

So, my surgery date is set for late June. I could have the procedure done earlier, but we have a family trip set for April. Also, in early June my dad is getting married to his sweetheart, Donna, and I do not want to miss out on wedding planning!! Josh will be taking a week off for the surgery and Dad and Donna will be spending their 2nd honeymoon taking care of me and my boys (so romantic!). Knowing that PapaDonna (as the 3 year old calls them) will be here during this time puts me at so much ease. We are so incredibly blessed by them.

My next step is to find a breast surgeon to discuss the possibility of a double mastectomy. This is a little bit trickier for me as the surgery and recovery is much more intense and there are so many options for reconstruction. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I believe God will guide us through all of this just as He does in everything else.

Josh and I have complete and total trust in God throughout all of this. Our faith is a huge part of keeping us grounded and in helping us not let fear overcome us. We don’t believe in making decisions based on fear, but we do believe that God has given us wisdom to help guide us. We don’t have all of the answers and we haven’t made all of the decisions yet, but we have total peace about being proactive. We’ll do our part and trust God for the rest.

If you feel led to, please join us in praying for the following:

  • An uncomplicated, boring surgery with a speedy recovery.
  • Wisdom and peace for decisions we will be making in the future.

  • That this guy will pick up on potty training quickly and with ease. Eeeeek! We’ve just started and he’s not much of a fan. Hopefully he’ll have it locked down by June.

  • That this guy will be weaned from nursing soon. I’ve been “trying” to wean him for a while, but he’s my last baby. Momma is having a harder time with it than he is.
  • My biggest concern is how my body will be affected after surgery. I’ll be thrown into menopause, but I don’t know what that will look like for me. It’s harder on some women than others. Please pray that I adjust easily.

***If you are concerned that your family might have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation the best thing to do is get test. You can call the cancer center at your local hospital and ask if they offer testing or call an oncology center in your area. If you live in the South Eastern Missouri area The Women’s Oncology Center offers BRCA testing and genetic counselors are available to go over your results with you.***

I can’t say enough how much we appreciate you all and all of the encouragement you’ve given us. We are just the luckiest.

BRCA Journey Part 1

On July 4th 1998 I stood on the front porch of my parent’s house in Maysville, KY and cut off my 46 year old mother’s thinning hair. Earlier that year Mom had been diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. She fought hard for the next 10 years, taking every chemo treatment available until the treatments ran out along with Mom’s time here on earth.

Mom's haircut

I’m not sure what spurred it on, a nudge from her doctors or just her own curiosity, but Mom started researching our family history of cancer and found that her father’s side of the family was drenched in breast cancer, ovarian cancer and stomach cancer (most likely ovarian as well). Years later her half sister, Sandy, was also diagnosed.

In 2002 Mom underwent BRCA genetic testing to see if our family’s history of cancer was indeed genetic. Mom tested positive for two gene mutations confirming her genetic predisposition to cancer. Because Mom was a carrier of the mutations, there was a 50% chance that my sister and I were also carriers. We were both tested; my big sis got the luck of the draw and tested negative (yaaaay!) while I tested positive for one of Mom’s mutations (booooo!).20161124_133441.jpg

I want it to be noted that I don’t hold any negative feelings toward my sister for stealing all the good non-cancer genes. Sure she also stole the ‘I look 15 years younger than I actually am’ genes and the ‘I can multitask like a bad mamma-jamma’ genes, but I’m taller, I don’t sunburn, and eating ice cream has never thrown me into an asthmatic attack so… I call it evens. Besides, we both got the ‘derpy’ genes.


I’m sure you’re thinking, “Afton, all of the Mutants I know have really incredible super powers. Does your mutation give you super strength or the ability to over consume pizza and still fight crime?” Sadly, the answer is no. While my pizza consumption is on the higher end for someone my size I have not acquired any super powers. I guess you could consider me more of a ‘Rogue’, because let’s be honest, her mutation sucks too.


What the BRCA gene mutation DOES give me is:

A 55-65% chance of developing breast cancer by age 70.

A 35-70% chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70

*Men who carry the mutations are also at a higher risk for breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Guys, I KNOW!! I’m totally being a Debbie Downer,


but I want you to know this stuff because:

A) If your family tree has a crazy amount of breast, ovarian and or prostate cancer, you might have a greater risk, but you are not alone! And there’s something you can do about it. Get tested! Take control of you future.

B) There’s no good screening method for ovarian cancer. By the time most women start experiencing warning signs, if ever, it’s too late in the game.

debbie 2

C) The risk involved for those of us with the BRCA mutation is just too high to ignore. This is why most women with the mutation opt for preventative hysterectomy and double mastectomy. (If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow. That seems pretty extreme.” You’re right. It is extreme. And I pray that someday this won’t be the norm, but for now these preventative surgeries are the best options the medical community can provide.)

debbie 3

D) I will need your help! Meals, encouragement, support for Josh and the boys, maybe a hair wash.  And prayers, lots of prayers.

DD) If I look different (ahem) the next time you see me you’ll know why.

So, here I am, 4 days away from my 36th birthday. In 3 days I have an appointment at the Women’s Oncology Center in St. Louis to schedule my preventative surgeries and discuss my options. I’m not 100% sure what that will look like. I’m not afraid, a bit anxious, but also really ready to start on this journey. If these surgeries will provide me the opportunity to someday sit on the back porch with old man Josh Nordean while we watch our grandkids play in the yard then I’ll take it, all day everyday.


Thanks for reading friends! I covet your love and support. And cheesecake. If you have any cheesecake, I covet that too.


Coast To Coast Central™

Home of the #CoastToCoastChallenge™ - © Lindsey Eryn Clark & Lauren Palomares. All Rights Reserved.

Coast To Coast Central™

Home of the #CoastToCoastChallenge™ - © Lindsey Eryn Clark & Lauren Palomares. All Rights Reserved.