Elle editor Nina Garcia opens up about undergoing preventive double mastectomy

‘I no longer wanted to have these scary thoughts’

Katie O'Malley
Friday 08 February 2019 12:57
How to check for breast cancer

Nina Garcia has penned a powerful essay about her decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy.

On Thursday, the ELLE US editor-in-chief revealed she will be recovering from the elective surgery during New York Fashion Week this month, instead of attending the runway shows.

A mastectomy (also known as a prophylactic mastectomy) is surgery to remove one or both breasts to lower the chances of getting breast cancer.

According to cancer.gov the surgery has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by at least 95 per cent in women who have a disease-causing mutation in the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene.

“Looking at the upcoming Fashion Week schedules piling up on my desk, it feels strange knowing that for the first time in 25 years, I will miss the excitement, creativity, and energy of the shows, which have always served as a reminder of why I love this industry,” she wrote.

The editor explained that her “battle of the boobs” began in 2015 when decided to get tested for “mutations to the BRCA genes…which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer”.

She later found out that she had a BRCA1 gene mutation and was “at high risk for breast cancer”.

Nina Garcia speaks at a 'Project Runway' panel in 29 January 2019

After three years of regular mammograms, breasts checks and additional tests, Garcia and her doctor agreed she should have a preventive double mastectomy.

“I was living in a loop of testing, every day waking up thinking: Is today the day I will get cancer?” she explained.

“I no longer wanted to have these scary thoughts, and I knew the only way they would stop was to schedule the surgery. The answer was clear.”

Garcia added the days after making the decision “were the hardest” and made her realised “how lonely and overwhelming the past few months had been”.

The Project Runway judge added that she worried about telling her children, colleagues and being away from work during New York Fashion Week, which started on Monday 4 February.

“I didn’t know how people would react, and I feared I would look weak,” she said.

However, after talking with several friends who had undergone the procedure she realised she had “entered an incredible community of strong women” who could offer their help and support.

“For the first time in years, a dark cloud lifted, and I felt a sense of relief and clarity about my choice,” she added.

While she admitted to being “scared” of the surgery, she said she is “deeply grateful” for the science and technology that makes early detection possible, her team of doctors, “the sisterhood of women who have been so open and supportive”, her husband, sons, and family.

She concluded her essay by saying she has learned to “pass it forward, be there for people, be open about your life”.

“I ultimately decided to write this in hopes that my story might serve as comfort to at least one woman out there who is going through something similar.

“For that woman, I want you to know that you are not alone. And while I may be having a hard time feeling brave at this very minute, I know that my sisters will be waiting for me on the other side, ready to put me back together again.”

In 2013, actress Angelina Jolie revealed she had undergone a double mastectomy after her doctors estimated had an 87 per cent risk of breast cancer and a 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer.

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"I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity," she wrote in an article entitled My Medical Choice for the New York Times.

Two years later, Jolie underwent an operation to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy) to reduce her risk of developing ovarian cancer.

If you would like to find out more information about preventive double mastectomies or breast cancer, you can visit the NHS, Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care and CoppaFeel!.

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