Woman hopes sharing mastectomy experience will help others
ROHNERT PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- North Bay resident Joelle Burnette made the same decision as Angelina Jolie after a similar diagnosis. She says while it was an extremely difficult decision and equally painful process, she believes it likely saved her life.
"Every single day I woke up I thought, 'Is this the day I'm going to get cancer,'" Burnette said.
Burnette was 42 when she got the news that the test she took to see if she had the gene mutation for breast cancer, the BRCA test, was positive.
"The first thing that came to mind, 'What's going to happen to my kids,'" she said. "My family was in the room with me, my mom was sitting next to me holding my hand."
Doctors told Burnette the chances of her getting breast cancer were more than 90 percent. Her odds were boosted by the fact that her older sister had two separate battles with breast cancer and her paternal aunt and grandmother both died from it.
Burnette chose to have both her breasts and her ovaries removed.
"I had a very close friend who looked at me, when she found out I was going to go through these surgeries and she said 'Why would you do that? You don't have cancer,'" Burnette said. "But I have such a high risk of it I didn't want to go through life wondering is this the day I'm going to get cancer?"
In May 2009, Burnette had the double mastectomy -- a 10 hour surgery that included a complicated reconstructive procedure on her breasts. She had her ovaries removed in a separate surgery.
The lack of information about the process and recovery prompted her to write a blog and then her own book, Cancer Time Bomb.
"I really wanted women to know what the process is like before they say, 'OK, I'm going to do it,'" she said.
Now, at age 47, Burnette is healthy, happy with her decision and hopeful that by sharing her experience, others will benefit.
"The reality is, if you're told your chances of getting cancer are that high why not do something about it," she said. "Why not take control of your life and do something about it."
cancer, celebrity, women's health, health, laura anthony
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