Tate and his mom had always been close. Before his stepfather came along, Tate, his younger brother, and their mom only had each other to rely on, so the boys had grown accustomed to helping out at home.
But in 2018, when his mom decided to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction after testing positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation, Tate took “helping out” to a whole new level.
“My mom lost her mother to breast cancer when she was 5 years old…years later her aunt also died from breast cancer.” The loss of both her mother and aunt at relatively young ages prompted Tate’s mom to get tested for the BRCA mutation.
As his mother began to talk more and more about the possibility of having preventative surgery, Tate knew it was one of the most difficult decisions his mom would ever have to make.
“We would talk about the pros and cons, sometimes having the same conversation over and over again but I could tell she just needed to keep talking it out.”
While Tate wasn’t sure he agreed with the idea of his mom having a prophylactic mastectomy, he knew she’d spoken to several doctors, did her fair share of research, and was carefully weighing all the options. “I trusted she would be making the best decision for her.”
After doing his own research on BRCA gene mutations and what it might mean for his own future, Tate began to understand why his mother was considering such drastic measures as surgery to maintain her health.
Tate’s mom did ultimately decide to have a mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction after finding a surgeon she felt comfortable with. The only problem was, the doctor was in New York…which happened to be 3000 miles away.
“Once we started to go over the logistics of her surgery, I knew she would need my help.”
Tate admits he had no idea what to expect when he showed up to take care of his mother after her surgery. It was easy to help out with the day-to-day things like making her meals, bringing her meds, and helping her in and out of bed but he felt helpless when he realized how uncomfortable and dependent she was.
“It was a reversal of roles; I was the one now caring [for] and looking after my mom as she had for me. It’s not something you think about at the time, you just see someone you care about in pain so you do whatever you can to help them.”
At one point Tate’s mom became so uncomfortable and frustrated with the fact that she couldn’t find a shirt that was short enough so that it wouldn’t touch her drains or soft enough not to irritate her skin. Tate decided to take matters into his own hands. He grabbed a pair of scissors and his softest t-shirt and began cutting it to his mom’s specifications until he had created the perfect solution for her.
Throughout his mom’s recovery, Tate was determined to make the best of a tough situation. He tried to keep his mom’s spirits up by making her laugh and sneaking in the occasional treat.
“Before her surgery she made me promise that I wouldn’t bring any junk food but there were some days that I could tell that’s just what she needed. She would pretend to be mad that I brought her a huge slice of chocolate cake, arguing that she needed to eat healthy to recover and then she would laugh and ask me to get her a fork… it was comforting to see her start to smile more and more.”
As Tate and his mom navigated the ups and downs of the healing process, they spent a lot of time together; sometimes talking, sometimes just sitting quietly when that’s what his mom needed to do and he’s grateful for the memories they created during that time.
“It was nice to have been able to spend that time with my mom…time that we wouldn’t have had if she had not had this surgery.”