HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The disease has always been top of mind for one local woman. She left her mom to the disease when she was young and, recently, made a pre-emtive strike to remove her own breasts.
"It's like having two ticking time bombs on your chest", Nicole said.
The reality of breast cancer hit Nicole early. She was twelve when she lost her mom.
Her mother was 34 years old when she was diagnosed. Thirty-nine when she died.
"I'm going to be turning 32 in December and that clock was ticking. I had my 1st scare in 2005. I had a lumpectomy in my left breast. Most recently, they found 7 cysts in my breasts", Nicole furthered.
That's when Nicole turned to Linda Cheng, a genetic counselor at the Queen's Medical Center.
Cheng shared, "She was interested in finding out her risk for breast cancer."
Through a blood test, Linda found Nicole had inherited a "BRCA 2" gene from her dad that carries an 85 percent risk of breast cancer.
Less than 10 percent of people actually have gene changes like Nicole out of anyone who has cancer.
Dr. Rio Banner explained, "Whenever a woman has a particularly high family history, the gene should be tested for. If it's present, the woman has an option which is to have preventive mastectomy."
After some soul searching, Nicole went ahead with a double mastectomy.
Ultimately, I knew if I wanted to be around for children even if I couldn't breastfeed them, I had to have the surgery.
Doctor Banner, Medical Director for Aloha Care says, despite advances in treatment and technology, prevalence is still high.
One out of eight women will experience breast cancer and we seem to be seeing it in younger women all the time.
Women like Nicole, who walked in honor of her mom at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk, calling herself a "previvor". Her random race number, one that gives her chicken skin, "891". Nicole's mom died August, 1991.
It's been four months since Nicole's surgery. She says the emotional journey has been tougher than the physical one. But by sharing her story, she hopes to help others.