I’ve always had to find a way to survive in life. I never had a choice but to fight and survive. My son was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 3 (he’s 26 now), my fiance took his life in our home in 2009. I was a single mom to three barely surviving but I had a death grip on that string. My adoptive dad passed away from lung cancer in 2016. I could’ve crumbled after all of this, but I’m not like most people. If I can’t walk, I’ll run. If I can’t breathe, I’ll scream.

I met my birth dad in 2013 and many of my aunts and uncles and cousins and my grandmother that same year. My aunt handed me a piece of paper and told me that our family has a history with breast cancer from my grandmother to both of my aunts standing in front of me. The piece of paper was a test result indicating that they had tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. I didn’t think too much of this and I tucked that piece of paper away. I was preparing to marry my best friend and didn’t want a dark cloud over my head.

As the years went on, I decided to go on a lifestyle change and become a healthier version of me. I lost 120lbs and got myself on the right mental track. I started doing my annual mammograms and each year, I was called back for further testing due to dense breast tissue and cysts. After dealing with this for 3 years, I finally decided to have a conversation with my doctor about getting genetically tested for the BRCA2 mutation that my family had carried. December 23rd, 2021, my genetic counselor sent my results off to Ambry. Three weeks later on January 17th, 2022, I was told I was positive for the mutation.

I was still unsure exactly what this meant for me. Before I knew it, I was meeting with oncology doctors to discuss my choices. I really wish I could’ve seen the beauty at that moment in the idea that I had a choice, but I was plagued by the fear of the unknown. I was in a very dark place. Both breast and gynecology specialists informed me that with my family history of not only breast cancer but also of ovarian cancer – it wasn’t if I get cancer, but when I get cancer.

Those words echoed in my head for a long time. I was still trying to grapple with the idea of having an oncology team but not having a cancer diagnosis. I looked into my future, and I was scared to death.

I scheduled my prophylactic double mastectomy directly to implant with nipple sparing procedure for July 25th, 2022, and I opted to just monitor for ovarian cancer versus getting a hysterectomy. I did this due my family history of heart disease and knowing that surgical menopause can have complications that could cause cardiovascular issues.

In the months leading up to my surgery, I had to do a lot of soul searching and I questioned if I was doing the right thing. I ugly cried a lot. When surgery day finally arrived, I just kept repeating these song lyrics in my head…
“I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look at how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything”

I made it through recovery and learned to love my new body. I realized that I was so lucky. Of all the things in life that never allowed me the choice to survive, finding out that I had BRCA2 before cancer gave me the choice. I was able to speak for myself for once. I wasn’t just someone that this bad thing happened to, but I was someone who looked it in the face and launched my own war. I’ve been through hell and back and I am standing stronger today because of it.

I am now working with breast cancer of the ozarks to help change their bylaws to include previvors. I am respected in the Jeep community as I use my Jeep as a platform to raise awareness about mutations and what it means to be a previvor. We have breast cancer awareness jeep drives and you will see at the front of the line in my Jeep wrangler decked out in pink with my BRCA2 mutation code on it and my BRCA ribbon flag flying high.

I am a survivor, I am a previvor, I am a fighter. The odds keep me going and I want the world to see me.

​Thank you very much,
Elizabeth Kelly