Ann StevensYou may have had or are about to have a mastectomy, either because you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or are at very high risk of developing it in the future. If so, your doctor may have told you about options to rebuild your breast or breasts — a surgery called breast reconstruction.

Typically, breast reconstruction takes place during or soon after mastectomy, and in some cases, lumpectomy. Breast reconstruction also can be done many months or even years after mastectomy or lumpectomy.

Whatever your age, relationship status, sexual activity, or orientation, you can’t predict how you will react to losing a breast. Each week throughout Pink Ribbon Month, we’re sharing the stories of how other women made this very personal decision to undergo reconstruction.

This is the story of why Ann Stevens chose to proceed with an immediate breast reconstruction:

My mother had breast cancer 20 years ago. I decided to undergo genetic testing and found out I was BRCA2 positive. That was about 10 years ago and I had been vigilant with annual screening for early detection of breast cancer ever since. I have lived with the threat of breast cancer for so long that I made the decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy and reconstruction. I went in for my annual screening and said I wanted to start the ball rolling on that process. They were really supportive and impressed I was being pro-active. They did the routine screening, and unfortunately they found a small lump that turned out to be malignant. My decision was 6 months too late.

I underwent a mastectomy and I needed chemotherapy. At the end of the chemotherapy, I had the option of a double mastectomy, or radiation. For me it was an easy decision. I already had breast cancer, and the radiation would only treat one breast. The other one was still a ticking time bomb.

I invested a good deal of time to research and find the right reconstructive surgeon as it was important to be comfortable and have a good rapport with them. I also needed to feel confident that the surgeon understood what I wanted and that we could get the result I wanted. The surgeon prepared me for absolutely every adverse outcome there could be. I was so lucky, I sailed through with no complications and the outcome is better than I could have hoped for.

To me the decision to have a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction was an easy one. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, it was about prevention. After I was diagnosed, it was about control. I wanted to minimise my risk of relapse as much as possible and this was the best way because it treated both breasts.

I’m 14 weeks post reconstruction now and 19 weeks post my last chemotherapy. If I didn’t tell you I’d had a double mastectomy and reconstruction you literally wouldn’t know it. That’s exactly what I wanted. I’m in control and I don’t have to think or talk about cancer because I’m just normal. Having said that, I’m so thrilled with my result I tell everyone!

I have a long way to go before anyone will tell me with any level of confidence that I will survive, but the reconstruction means that I can live life normally.