My mother battled breast cancer until the age of 47, and for most of my teenage life I remember every few years having to process the change that came with being excited to be “in remission” only to be surprised that it recurred somewhere else.

The definition of a warrior, her near impossible battle with breast cancer spanned over 13 years of her adult life and consisted of many setbacks and miraculous breakthroughs.

A month after she passed, I finally decided to get genetic tests completed to determine my risk of breast and ovarian cancer. I can’t forget the day I received my results that I was positive for the BRCA-2 gene mutation. I left work, called my closest aunt and cried. Through muffled cries, my aunt helped me to realize that my results were knowledge for me to make better decisions.

Knowing my reality, I made the decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. Priority was with that, as my risk was higher with my breasts as compared to ovarian cancer. After lots of research and consultations, I found solace with Dr. Khouri and Dr. Calva-Cerqueira at the Miami Breast Center and Dr. Patel, Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago. I can not stress the importance of speaking to multiple medical professionals, getting second opinions and trusting your gut. Undergoing a mastectomy and reconstruction (via fat transfer) challenged (and continues to) my beliefs about myself as a woman and my femininity. I had difficulty adjusting to my new body and relearning what love was to myself and others during the transition period. I’m finally sharing my story in hopes of encouraging other women to get tested and use their results as a source of information and courage, not fear.

I’m writing this so other women, like me, can be armed with information. Especially Black women, when diagnosed with breast cancer, have a 42% higher mortality rate than white women. The statistics are grimacing for us, where Black women are much more likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, which can be more aggressive, harder to treat, and more likely to come back (recur).

Challenges are the gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.