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Charley Wood

10 January 2017

Charley Wood

After losing her mum, grandma and great aunt to ovarian cancer all at very young ages, Charley knew there must be a link.

"I was tested for the BRCA gene mutation at 25 and my older sister and I were found to carry the BRCA1 mutation.

When I was told the news my lip started to go and I was in flood of tears – why me again?

Although they like you to wait and think it over, during that appointment I was referred for a bilateral double mastectomy. I knew it would be my choice if the results were positive.

Why wait? What will I gain by carrying round the ticking time bombs for a few more years?

So at 26 I had my breasts removed this year and it's probably the best decision I have made yet.

"Why wait? What will I gain by carrying round the ticking time bombs for a few more years?"

Charley Wood

The main two concerns with BRCA1 are breast and ovarian cancer, now at least one is out of the way. I had reconstruction with implants and they look great, my surgeon was lovely and really helped me feel comfortable with my decision.

They still feel quite alien to me, and I have basically no feeling in them at all. But who cares? I've lowered my risk of breast cancer by so much, what a gift to be able to do that.

Many women are diagnosed with breast cancer and are then told they carry a faulty BRCA gene. That's why it is so important to look at your family history; if there's a pattern look into it if you can.

Next stop ovaries – being 26 I have a little time to think about this.

The thing that plays on my mind daily is that ovarian cancer has no proven regular screening, and no real symptoms I don't carry already anyway (I also have Crohn's disease).

I'm constantly bloated and get abdominal pains. So ovarian cancer to me is the ultimate fear, as I lost my family members all to ovarian cancer I am at the highest end of the scale into going on to develop this.

I nursed my mum when I was 17, this fear is something I live with everyday for my future.

I underestimated the impact of having the BRCA gene mutation would have on me. It has impacted me psychologically a lot more than I anticipated. It really does play on my mind daily, I also risk passing this onto children when I have them and may have to watch them endure the same process.

Fortunately, because I found out about my mutation I will hopefully be around to watch my children grow up; a chance my mum didn't get.

I find the hysterectomy a lot more scary than the mastectomy. Losing my breasts hasn't had any consequences other than psychological. But having a total hysterectomy at 35 will fling me straight into the menopause, which I dread.

Even though I have been faced with such tough decisions I still feel incredibly lucky. I have two breasts that nobody would ever know have been through such a journey; a journey that has potentially saved my life and I will be eternally grateful for.

They may have a few scars but they are scars that show determination and courage. I feel lucky to have been armed with knowledge I have and to have been able to act on it. I feel empowered that I made a life changing choice that in no way diminishes my femininity and confidence.

"Even though I have been faced with such tough decisions I still feel incredibly lucky"

A few days after my double mastectomy I started a blog which has been viewed all over the world over 100,000 times. I did this to try and help other women going through a BRCA journey.

I have also started up a project providing surgical drain bags for patients undergoing double mastectomies.

Breast and ovarian cancers take lives everyday – knowledge and action can help the premature loss of those who love us, and those we love in return.

I feel life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take control of."

Are you worried about your family history? Visit our 'BRCA hub' for information, support and advice