Hard Choices

Opting for a Double Mastectomy

When Daily Beast contributor Lizzie Stark learned from her oncologist that she possessed a genetic mutation called the "BRCA1 gene," which considerably increases her risk of ovarian and breast cancer, she was forced to make a decision many women would find impossible. Stark shared her story on TodayShow.com, writing about her experience from the moment she found out to her ultimate decision to undergo a double mastectomy. "It took a few tablespoons of blood, a six-week wait to determine the results, and only an instant to change my world," she writes. With a limited number of options following what she calls the "cruel joke" of the BRCA test—including menopause-inducing chemoprevention, frequent medical surveillance, and a double mastectomy—Stark weighs her desire to nurse her future children and her happiness with her body against her fear of developing cancer, eventually deciding on the surgery that would "spare [her] future children the pain of a hospitalized and sick mother." She writes, "unlike my mother or my grandmother, I will be removing my breasts on my own schedule."