How A Prophylactic Mastectomy and Full Marathon Helped Me Cope As A Previvor

I was informed that I carry the BRCA1 mutation at just 23 years old, shortly after my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer. I was told my risk was so high that it was not a matter of if I was going to get a cancer diagnosis, but a matter of when. I went from going to the doctors once a year to seeing three different doctors every couple of months.

I became distant with my friends, refused to go to therapy and started to spiral into a dark, closed-off world. Two years after being told I was a BRCA1 gene carrier, I told myself that I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and I finally began being proactive about the situation.

At age 26, I made the difficult decision to receive a prophylactic double mastectomy that would help to drastically reduce my chances of breast cancer. It was time to take the matter into my own hands and reduce my risk of cancer.

I felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I no longer had to schedule MRIs, mammograms and ultrasounds every couple of months and I felt a sense of calmness that I haven’t felt since my BRCA1 diagnosis. I knew that I had made the right decision.

My experience has taught me the importance of a healthy lifestyle. While you cannot control your DNA, you can control the actions you take to stay as healthy as possible. I made sure that I was fueling my body with the best quality food that kept me energized throughout the day and throughout my workouts. I have always been an athlete, so working out consistently has always been a priority of mine. Training for marathons is a big commitment that requires hundreds of hours of training. As an observance of my surgery and prophylactic choices , I competed in the 2019 Fitbit Miami Marathon produced by Life Time, the premier healthy lifestyle brand on January 27. I wanted to celebrate being healthy, strong and resilient.

Being that I have been a runner for a couple of years, I always stuck with competing in half marathons because I never thought I would be able to successfully complete a marathon. After finishing five half-marathons, I wanted to challenge myself and push my body to run a distance I have never tried before. It seemed impossible. I took training very seriously and devoted a lot of time and energy into running. After completing my very first marathon before my prophylactic mastectomy, I was hooked! Crossing the finish line symbolized a new start or end to my obsession with a cancer diagnosis. I knew if my body could handle running these marathons, my body could handle any obstacle that comes its way.

Running the marathon was a celebration of my increasing strength and stamina and I hope that it can serve as a symbol of hope for other women who might be experiencing similar struggles. I was elated as I crossed the finish line, and was touched by the many other participants who ran that day who had inspirational stories of their own.

Despite my difficult journey, I consider myself lucky and hope to share my story with as many women as possible. If I only help to renew hope for just one person, then it’s completely worth it. Women are strong, and we can meet any obstacle life puts in front of us. – Karolina Krauze


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