Nina Garcia is the editor of Elle and I know her as a fashion commentator and judge on Project Runway. She recently wrote an essay saying that she needs to miss Fashion Week as she’s about to get a double preventative mastectomy. Nina took a DNA test that reveals she has the mutation in the BRCA gene that increases your chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer. She underwent follow up tests with doctors and has determined that this is the best decision for her health. It’s been such a weight on her mind that she is looking forward to having the procedure and no longer worrying.
I won’t be attending Fashion Week. Instead, I’ll be watching from the sidelines at home, recovering from a preventive double mastectomy.
As an editor, I’m used to expressing myself in words, but now I’m having a difficult time finding the right things to say. I’ve been confronting my emotions and keep asking myself the same few questions. Am I scared? Yes. Am I relieved? Yes. Am I making the right choice? Absolutely…
My battle of the boobs began in 2015. Because of a family history, I decided to get genetic testing to check for mutations to the BRCA genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2), which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. To my surprise, I received an envelope containing the results, stating that I did in fact have a mutation and was at high risk for breast cancer.
This January we did more tests, and after studying the results, my doctors and I decided that I should have a preventive double mastectomy. I was living in a loop of testing, every day waking up thinking: Is today the day I will get cancer? I no longer wanted to have these scary thoughts, and I knew the only way they would stop was to schedule the surgery. The answer was clear.
Surprisingly, the days following my decision were the darkest. It wasn’t until then that I realized how lonely and overwhelming the past few months had been. There were only a few people I spoke with about this. I worried about my kids, how to tell everyone at work, and the prospect of being out of the office during one of the most hectic times of the year. I didn’t know how people would react, and I feared I would look weak.
I realize I’m incredibly privileged to be where I am today. I have options and insurance and access to the best medical care. My heart is heavy for the millions of other women out there who are not as lucky.
Nina wrote that she’s received support from friends and other women who have had this procedure, and that so many people have reached out to her. She’s relieved not only to be getting this done, but also to have opened up about her decision.
I was so happy when 23andMe released the BRCA results and I tested negative. If I tested positive, and if I had lost close family members to this disease, I would opt for this if I could afford it. I do get a mammogram every year, and reading stories like this reminds me how important they are.
Remember when Melissa Etheridge shamed Angelina Jolie, who had lost her aunt and mother to breast cancer and has the BRCA mutation, for getting this done? Melissa thought she was the authority on breast cancer since she’d had it and also hated Angelina. Anyway I hope Nina doesn’t get grief from anyone for this. This was brave of her to both have it done and to open up about it, especially since she didn’t tell many people before this.