'The decision straight away was double mastectomy and reconstruction. It wasn’t a difficult decision for me. I just wanted to live.'
Vicki McGrath from Dublin was 34 when she noticed a lump in the middle of her chest in September 2019. She visited her GP straight away. Vicki had a family history of cancer, including three aunts who’d had breast cancer, so her doctor fast tracked her for a triple assessment in St. James’s Hospital.
“I thought it was probably just a cyst. The following week I went into James’s and got the biopsy done… I went back on October 2nd for my results. I was with my best friend and our plan was to go for a swim in the Forty Foot afterwards to celebrate that it was nothing."
A genetic test revealed that Vicki had inherited the BRCA2 gene mutation, which increased her risk of developing cancer in both breasts.
“The decision straight away was double mastectomy and reconstruction… It wasn’t a difficult decision for me. I just wanted to live. It was sh** though and I was obviously terrified.”
Before she could undergo surgery, Vicki went through eight rounds of chemotherapy, which finished in February 2020.
“What helped me was continuing to do the things that I love. I continued to swim in the Irish sea during treatment. My oncologist said if it makes you feel good, do it. It was so important to me to have things that made me feel like myself while I was going through treatment.
“There were definitely times last summer that I felt self-conscious in my swimsuit or when I was getting changed afterwards. I was like, ‘Oh God, is anyone going to see that I’m missing a boob?’"
“I was a bit apprehensive going into surgery but I remember the nurse in the hospital, she was so lovely. She squeezed my hand and said, ‘When you wake up from this surgery, your cancer will be gone.’ I hadn’t really thought about it that way and I was like, ‘Oh my God, yeah!’”
Vicki is now cancer-free, and her double mastectomy and reconstruction were completed in December 2020. She’s focusing on enjoying life and says, “None of us know what’s around the corner. Life is so very precious… Surround yourself with people you love, doing the things that you love. Life isn’t about waiting for the big moments to arrive, it’s about finding joy in the everyday things.”
Learn more about breast health and about how you can support breast cancer patients this October.
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