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Mum chooses to have breasts and ovaries removed so she can see her sons grow up

By Louise Lazell & Kelly-Ann Mills

An ICU nurse who was desperate to see her sons grow up has had life changing surgery to remove her breasts and ovaries after inheriting the BRCA1 gene.

Ruth Cookson was just eight when her mum died from breast cancer worried and after her own son was born, she worried she could leave him without a mum too.

The 34-year-old decided to go for genetic testing and was told she had the BRCA1 gene mutation in December 2012.

Her risk of developing breast cancer was 80 per cent and her risk of ovarian cancer was 45 per cent so she decided she would have preventative surgery to remove her breasts and ovaries once her family was complete.

Now mum to Seb, nine, Lucas, eight, and Theo, four, Ruth from Bristol, said: "I feel like I can finally breathe. All I want to do is live for a long time and I know I'm not in control of that, but these operations have given me the chance to be here for a lot longer.

"My mum missed out on everything and I don't want to miss anything.

She waited til she had three children before opting for the surgery (walesonline.co.uk)

"My God, recovery was hard, but I would do it a million times over in order to have a future with my family."

She added: "My mum was diagnosed when she was 36 and she died when she was 42.

"I don't remember much, but I remember her on the sofa with the cat or at birthday parties and I remember a trip to Florida, just me and her.

"I remember the day she died. It was a Sunday morning and the phone rang at 7.30am and my aunt, grandma and everyone was at my house.

"I just knew Mum had died. My dad answered the phone and then came and told me and I just remember running to my room and crying."

Ruth decided to have a double, bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction surgery, using the tissue from her lower belly to create new breasts.

Frustratingly for Ruth, the pandemic in 2020 created an unexpected delay, as her surgery was postponed and she was busy working on the intensive care wards.

She said: "At work, it was like I could close the door to everything that was happening and just look after the person who needed me in that moment.

She is happy to have had the surgery (walesonline.co.uk)

"I understood why my surgery was delayed, but I was so frustrated because I just needed to have it. "

In September 2020, Ruth was booked in for the double mastectomy and 10-hour reconstructive surgery at Southmead Hospital Bristol.

She said: "Everything was gone, all my breast tissue and my nipples and the risk of me getting breast cancer is really significantly less.

"I have a scar just below my bikini line that goes from hip to hip from where the tissue was removed for reconstruction. I couldn’t even stand for four weeks straight.

"It was really painful and a physically demanding healing process, but I would do it a million times over to help secure a future with my family."

Ruth had surgery to remove her ovaries in January this year, at St Michaels Hospital in Bristol and, so far, has no symptoms from the surgical menopause, as she is taking hormone replacement therapy and feels the operation has removed another weight from her shoulders.

She said: "I just really think my body's amazing.

"As cringy as it is, my body has been used to reconstruct a new pair of boobs, it's healed itself and I'm just really grateful for what she's done.

"It's been a hard few years with the operations and work, but I feel great."

She said: "I have changed jobs to do research nursing in intensive care, so I now work regular hours, so I can be there for my boys.

"I want to be there every weekend for my children and in the evenings and to do things with them.

"I want to be there for everything and this surgery means I no longer live with the fear that I won't be.

"I love just watching them play football every weekend for matches and training and going out with them for long walks with our dog Barley.

"I am sure there will be other struggles as life goes on, but I just feel free now ."

Ruth, who has been documenting her journey on her Instagram @mymastectomyandme hopes she can help to inform and reassure other women going through the same experience.

She said: "I found it really hard to find young women like me, not celebrities, that I could relate to.

"I just wanted to share my story, hoping that it might give people someone to relate to, to ask questions of and to support them.

"That is all I have ever wanted."

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Dive Deeper:
Healthy mum chooses to have breasts removed so she can see her sons grow up
Ruth Cookson has a gene mutation that made her more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer
‘I can finally breathe’: Healthy nurse has breasts and ovaries removed ‘to see her sons grow up’
Bristol mum-of-three Ruth Cookson, 34, lost her own mother in 1996, aged just 41, to breast cancer and is desperate…
Emotional tribute to 'life and soul of the party' Leeds woman, 32, after tragic cancer death
Simone Taylor's former friends and colleagues intend to raise as much money as possible in her memory
Hoda Kotb opens up about body image struggles after undergoing a mastectomy: ‘I was horrified’
‘You don’t see it as: The cancer is gone’
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Julia Bradbury ‘delighted’ documentary prompted breast cancer awareness surge
Broadcaster Julia Bradbury said it was a “big decision” to film her breast cancer journey but was “delighted” the film…
Mum and daughter who survived Manchester Arena bombing both studying to be nurses
Eve Senior and her mum Natalie said they were inspired by the care they received as they recovered from injuries
Get all your news in one place