Four years later, woman reflects on elective mastectomy - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Four years later, woman reflects on elective mastectomy

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Jennifer Gooch Jennifer Gooch

Recovery has been hard since 37-year-old Jennifer Gooch had an elective mastectomy after a 2009 genetic test revealed a mutation that could've led to breast cancer.

In the wake of actress Angelina Jolie's announcement that she underwent the same surgery, for the same reason, WTOC sat down with Gooch.

"If I had to do it all over again, yes, I would," she said.

Gooch's mastectomy was followed by a hysterectomy a year later. She's lived under the specter of breast cancer since she was a teen, when her mother was diagnosed with the disease and had a single mastectomy.

"As a young girl, it scared me," Gooch said. "And for years, breast cancer was always in the back of my mind."

Her mother, Faye Nance, said that back then, Gooch "didn't want to go to school.

She didn't want to leave me. She wanted to stay with me and care for me and look after me."

Gooch said when she learned she was carrying a breast cancer susceptibility gene, it actually came as a relief. She was glad to know there was something she could do about the risk.

"It empowers you as a person," she said. "It encourages you to speak out just like Angelina Jolie to speak out about what you've done because you want other people to have this opportunity."

It's an opportunity Jennifer hopes her 12-year-old daughter, Rachel, one day will take.

Geneticists say mothers with the gene have a 50 percent chance of passing it on to their daughters.

Rachel was 8 years old when her mother had a mastectomy, and explaining genetic mutation has been a process.

"It's kind of been a little hard because of course there's been a lot of big words to understand," she said. "But my mom's helped me, you know, like comprehend it."

Despite being in the public eye, changes to Angelina Jolie's physique went unnoticed. But not everyone has that outcome.

Jennifer says she warns everyone who is considering an elective mastectomy that reconstruction can fail.

"I've reached the point that it's not about how I look anymore," she said. "It's about the fact that I still have life."

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