A Lufkin woman makes brave decision to have a preventative double mastectomy

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Just this week, we learned actress Angelina Jolie recently had a preventative double mastectomy when she found out she carried the BRCA 1 gene.

But Jolie is not alone, many women are faced with making this difficult choice when their risk level for developing breast cancer is greater than the average woman.

One east Texas woman who made that choice just two years ago after her younger sister passed away from the disease.

"I may die of cancer but it's not going to be breast cancer," said Jennie Ferguson.

Ferguson had a preventative double mastectomy in 2010, just five years after her baby sister, just 39, died of breast cancer.

"It was not going to be if I got breast cancer but it was going to be when I got breast cancer," said Ferguson.

Ferguson said she didn't want to have surgery but she didn't want to subject her mother or her children to the illness again.

"In 1991 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy in April and did well after that," said Ferguson.  "For 15 years our family was cancer free and then in 2004 my younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39. We weren't so lucky with her. She lived 8 months and she passed away in 2005, 3 weeks shy of her 40th birthday."

Ferguson said, "At the time my family had undergone 2 major deaths in a very short period of time and we were not looking forward to any further cancer diagnosis in our family so I chose to meet with my physicians and determine what my options were."

"I think the fact that I had breast cancer in both of my female members of my immediate family, the decision was easier for me, however, it was still a difficult decision because it's a physical and psychological change that you're going through," said Ferguson.

Ferguson said it was agonizing to watch her sister suffer and ultimately die from breast cancer.

"By the end, instead of praying for her to be well, we were praying for God to take her, you know she was just so sick."

After consulting her with physicians and researching all her options, Ferguson decided that the double mastectomy was the best option for her.

"I think my anatomy probably helped make the decision because if I were to get breast cancer at the time that I still had my breasts I probably wouldn't have found it until it was an advance disease because I wouldn't have been able to feel it," said Ferguson.

"All my breast tissue was removed. I have been fine ever since. I haven't looked back. I would do it all over again and I was very glad that I made that decision," said Ferguson.

She elected not to have reconstructive surgery. After the mastectomy, she had large scars and wanted time to heal.

"I did elect not to have reconstructive surgery at the time it was just from a time off at work I didn't want to undergo, I wanted to be able to heal first," said Ferguson. "I was very well-endowed so I had large scars that took a while to heal and the reconstruction is a process. It's not just one surgery and you're done like you were with the mastectomy. It's several surgeries and I just didn't want to undergo that at the time. I've thought about it. I've discussed it with my primary care physician and [we] both agree that I'm doing well now unless I just really wanted to do the surgery but I was okay if I didn't and I haven't yet. It's not to say that I never will but right now I haven't I have chosen not to."

Ferguson says if she has one message for women out there who might be in a similar situation it is that peace of mind is priceless.

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