Breast cancer has defined our lives since we were little girls. Our journey began when our mother died from the disease a few weeks after her 39th birthday. At the time, my younger sister Kara and I were not even teenagers; Kara was 7 and I was 12 years old.
Our lives were forever changed. Our mom missed our proms, our high school and college graduations, our wedding days and the births of our children. She missed all the little days in between with her daughters, the “everydays” that some of us take for granted. Her death at such a young age has always been one of the most profound experiences of our lives.
In August 2010, just a few days after celebrating her 35th birthday, Kara was diagnosed with breast cancer. We discovered Kara carried the genetic mutation for breast cancer – BRCA1. This mutation carries an 87% chance of developing breast cancer, a 20% chance of developing a second breast cancer and a 45% chance of developing ovarian cancer.
Kara’s cancer was diagnosed to be Stage 1, triple negative. She opted to undergo very aggressive treatment, beginning with a bilateral mastectomy with breast reconstruction and a hysterectomy. She participated in several clinical trials, underwent 6 months of intense chemotherapy and over a year of an experimental chemotherapy drug. Kara is a “survivor,” in so many ways!
While Kara was going through her many treatments, I decided to complete genetic counseling and testing. I was hopeful that I did not carry the BRCA-1 gene; our entire family was amazed when I tested positive. For Kara and I to share the same genetic mutation, it was shocking.
Fortunately, I had not yet developed breast cancer. As a "previvor" there are many treatment options, ranging from frequent and intense surveillance to prophylactic mastectomy and hysterectomy. I opted to have both preventative surgeries with breast implant reconstruction.
Throughout our journey, Kara and I kept asking each other – “What can we do to bring something positive out of this experience for ourselves and for other women?” We wanted our “new normal” to capture the beauty, comfort and confidence we felt before. That meant feeling and living healthy, AND being able to get dressed, wearing a beautiful and comfortable bra! So, we co-founded braGGsTM in January 2012.
Thank you for reading about our journey, and, for visiting braggsTM !
Kristin Gembala | Co-Founder