Rebecca Black was a survivor long before she tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation and endured a series of preventative surgeries to preserve her health.
As a childhood victim of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her schizophrenic mother and step-father, Rebecca developed a resilience that allowed her to thrive in spite of the trauma she suffered. In fact, there’s so much fight in her that she managed to cheat death three times after a slew of health problems and hospitalizations.
The hospital stays were the result of considerable trouble with her reproductive organs. Throughout her 20’s and 30’s, Rebecca dealt with severe endometriosis, fibroid tumors, chronic cysts, and two ruptured ovaries. Given her health issues and a family history of cancer, Rebecca felt compelled to be tested for the BRCA gene mutation.
“Nothing can stop me, nothing can kill me. I had proven that I could survive anything.”
The news that she’d tested positive was shocking and overwhelming at first. “Why is this happening too?” she thought. Between the past abuse and all the health problems she faced, there was a part of Rebecca that felt like she couldn’t catch a break. But survival mode kicked in pretty quickly; she had already been through so much, she wasn’t going to let this take her down.
The decision about what to do next was a difficult one. Her doctors had different opinions and mixed feelings about the best course of action. After tons of research and much deliberation, Rebecca came up with her own treatment plan: a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and (since she’d already had a partial hysterectomy at the age of 28) an oophorectomy.
Discussing her decision with her family would be the next bridge to cross and it was one of the toughest parts of the process. Having been no stranger to hospital visits (both planned and emergent) Rebecca wanted her children to know that this was her choice. She explained that the preventative surgeries were the best way to take control of her health and because it was thoughtful and planned out. She believed it would save future trips to the hospital and it would mean she’d be there for them in the long run.
“Losing my ovaries, my hormones – I’m still figuring it out…”
The process of coming to terms with the changes in her body has been an ongoing one. At first, the major change in the way she looked was drastic. Rebecca worried about how her husband would respond…would he see her differently after the surgeries? But for her, the physical changes weren’t as difficult to navigate as the hormonal ones. Losing her ovaries and being immediately thrown into menopause in her late 30’s was hard to handle at times.
With everything she’s been through, Rebecca’s outlook is nothing short of miraculous. Her goal is to get the most out of life–to love the people she’s closest to and do everything in her power to show them. She’s gained a renewed motivation to travel to places she’s never been, to say the things she wouldn’t before and to live like every day matters because it could all end at any moment.
“All of that negativity leading up to and including the journey through all of my surgeries was a blessing. It drove me to write a book! To say the things I was always afraid to say! To be the woman I was afraid to be. I know now that this is just the beginning.”
*If you’d like to read Rebecca’s story in full, check out her book, Facing The Elephants.