Did you know that November is National Caregivers Month? Today we are sharing the story of two friends, one BRCA positive and the other who stood by her side through a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. Being a caregiver can really mean taking on many different roles. As this recent interview reveals, sometimes it means pigging out on your favorite foods with your best friend.
We caught up with Gabbie in February 2018, which marks 5 years since her reconstruction was complete. She shared updates on herself and her bestie, Meaghan.
Things have been really great. It took some time to really get to know my new body and to get back to what I was able to do physically (in terms of range of motion, working out, etc.) I feel 1000% myself now, but not without some “bumps” in the road.
Late in 2015, I felt a lump in my right breast. I can not describe the fear that I experienced. With the support of Meaghan and my family, I made an appointment at Yale to be examined. After a few weeks of waiting, the results came in: the lump was benign; it was likely some tissue that was displaced in the surgery process, and eventually wound up going away. Although it turned out to be so minor, Meaghan never hesitated to answer the phone and comfort me through the process.
Since we last spoke, Meaghan has embarked on her own journey... she’s now a wife AND a mom! Oliver was born about 2 weeks before Meaghan’s birthday in August of 2016 and without breaking tradition, I flew out to be with her for her birthday, and to celebrate the arrival of my favorite new human (sorry, Meaghan.)
I am so grateful to have a best friend, a sister, who makes the tribulations of life a little easier, and to be there to support her on her exciting, new path.
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Gabbie, I’m 26 years old and I’m a veterinarian technician. I love hanging out with my dog, going to the gym, hiking, and traveling.
Why did you need a caregiver?
When I was young my mom, unfortunately, developed and died of breast cancer at a young age. When I was in my early twenties I chose to have genetic counseling and testing and learned that I am a BRCA1 carrier. Based on my personal and family history and my personal preferences, I chose to have both of my breasts removed preventively at age 24.
I’m sure many people helped you during this process, but one person stood out. Tell us about her.
Meaghan has been my best friend since high school. As an only child, Meaghan has been nothing short of a sister to me and I’ve learned from her that sometimes people who aren’t related to you can be family. Meaghan now lives on the other side of the country in California, but we’ve kept in close touch and see each other several times a year.
When Meaghan learned that I’d be having surgery, she advised me that she’d be there. I never had to ask her – she made it clear that it was on her calendar.
The day before my surgery Meaghan flew to Connecticut and my stepmom cooked us a huge pig-out meal with all of my favorites. We stayed up and watched movies and Meaghan kept me calm. The next morning Meaghan and my parents drove me to the hospital and she stayed with me until I went into surgery and was there when I woke up.
The recovery process was uncomfortable and painful, and I was on a lot of different pain medications – so my recollection is a little groggy. What I do remember is that Meaghan slept in the hospital room with me, which allowed my parents to go home at night. She got up with me in the middle of the night when I was itching from morphine or when I was in pain, and would track down the nurse and act as my own personal warrior. A lot of friends were calling and texting, so Meaghan returned my text messages and phone calls for me. She was my little PR person!
Tell us about your relationship with Gabbie
As Gabbie says, we go way back. The best thing about our friendship is that every time we meet up, no matter how much time has passed, we jump right back in where we left off - no awkward silence, no judgments or jealousy. Just friends. That is why when she told me about her prophylactic bilateral mastectomy I knew I had to be there.
I remember the day Gabbie received her genetic test results. I was walking into work and she called and bluntly told me that she carried the gene mutation and was going to have the surgery. There was no question about it. There was always a part of Gabbie that held back living life because she was scared of getting breast cancer, like her mom. She put it best herself - "I finally feel like I can live." Not only could she now live but she could take charge and not leave her life to fate.
I flew East for the surgery for a total of four days (I told Gabbie that if they didn't give me the time off I planned to quit my job of five years). I stayed in the hospital with her every night and stayed awake to make sure she was okay because the pain came every three hours.
It was hard seeing her in pain, but the best part was when I started to see her personality come through. She was making a lot of poop jokes because the meds were constipating her – when she was joking, I knew she was okay. I had to leave the day she was able to go home, but when her bandages came off, she sent me a picture of her new boobs. I had to laugh because at first, I thought, “WHO IS SENDING ME NUDE PICS??!!”, but then I realized it was Gabbie.
Gabbie has been beyond strong and a huge advocate for BRCA carriers and also for taking charge of your own health, and your own life. I couldn't be prouder of her for looking a high risk of cancer in the face and pretty much saying F*** you!