Joanna Megson decided to have a double mastectomy at 24 after her grandma and mum had breast cancer.
Now 25, Joanna, from Yorkshire, is one of the youngest in the UK to have had her breasts removed.
Joanna, a commercial officer in the nuclear industry, had the surgery after finding out she had the BRCA2 gene, which substantially increased her risk of breast cancer.
She was encouraged by the story of Angelina Jolie, who had the preventative operation because of a family history of the illness.
The 25-year-old also fundraises for charity Breast Cancer Now for which she raised £6,000 through ITV striptease show The Real Full Monty.
In 2017, Joanna decided to get tested, finding out that her BRCA2 gene meant she had 50-80% of getting breast cancer as well as a risk of ovarian cancer.
‘The statistics were shocking,’ she said. ‘It felt inevitable that I’d follow in the footsteps of my mum and grandmother.’
At first, believing the risk of developing breast cancer in her twenties to be low, Joanna considered delaying her decision to have a preventative mastectomy.
Then she changed her mind, saying: ‘I thought, “this is the only thing that will save my life”.
‘With my family history, screening didn’t seem enough to prevent it. Surgery seemed the best thing to do, but I was still absolutely terrified.
‘It would mean never being able to breastfeed. I was worried about the risk of infection and that the reconstruction might not work.
‘I worried about not waking up from the anaesthetic, having no sensation in my breasts and what they’d look like.’
Joanna explained how her gran died from breast cancer at 36 and how her mum Julie had it, before developing cervical cancer and dying at 45.
She said: ‘I think my mum would be absolutely over the moon that I’ve had the op.
‘She never had the genetic test, but told me I could have it at 18. Back then, though, I didn’t want to know, so she’d be so proud that I’ve done something to try and prevent what happened to her.’
Julie was seven when her mum developed breast cancer, and saw her having a lumpectomy years later.
‘It was a difficult time,’ said Joanna. ‘I had to look after her and the house. There were people to help out, but having to cope with that at the age of 13 was really hard.
‘It took about 18 months from her diagnosis before she was given the all-clear.’
When Julie then developed cervical cancer, further rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed before she eventually passed away.
‘Discovering her cancer was terminal was horrendous,’ said Joanna. ‘We cried a lot, but decided to try and enjoy the time we had left together.’
Joanna added that boyfriend Josh had been supportive throughout the whole treatment, which she had in 2018.
In a six-hour operation at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Joanna had a mastectomy and reconstruction using silicone implants.
‘Although I had absolutely no regrets, when I left the hospital I saw a poster about breastfeeding and cried all the way home,’ she said.
‘The first time I looked at my breasts properly, I stood in front of the mirror, took my pyjama top off and started smiling, then crying with happiness, because my surgeon had done an amazing job.
‘It was such an emotional moment. They were real breasts. I had some bandages and a bit of bruising but they looked really good.’
Joanna said she feels inspired by other women like her and encourages more people to be tested.
She said: ‘To anyone wondering whether to have surgery, I’d say do it. It’s scary, but you’ll be so glad you did. I have no regrets.
‘It’s such a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s amazing what the surgeons can do.’
Other young women in the UK who had double mastectomies include Esther Taylor who had the operation at 24 and Hannah Fitzpatrick who had it at 19.
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