Me and the Girls: Jennifer Mukai
"I decided on bilateral mastectomy," she says. That's surgery to remove both breasts -- the one with the tumor and the other one, which showed no signs of cancer.
Mukai wasn't keen on the idea of getting radiation therapy, and she also wanted to minimize her risk of recurrence.
"For me, it was a matter of survival," Mukai says. "I really didn't want to go through this again, given that I have, perhaps, 40-plus years to live. ... My breasts are a part of me, but they don't define who I am. So I really had no issues taking them away."
Genetic testing showed no BRCA gene mutations tied to breast cancer or ovarian cancer.
But with a family history of pancreatic cancer, Mukai thought that she might have genetic risk factors that haven't been discovered yet. "I'm in prevention mode," she says.
Mukai is of Japanese ancestry. Breast cancer is rarer in Asian women than in white or African-American women. But breast cancer cases are rising for Asian-American women. That may be because they're adapting to Western diets and lifestyles, but that's not certain.
Building her team: Mukai met with doctors from two different facilities before deciding to get treated at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Mukai liked the fact that her doctors all worked together in the same place, and she encourages other breast cancer patients to "take the time to get a really good team of doctors you feel comfortable with. For me, that was important, that I had a group of people that gave me the confidence to make those decisions."
Her team included a nutritionist whose advice helped Mukai regain a sense of control.
"What I have found with the diagnosis is you have a sense of loss of control of your body. I thought that I was healthy, I thought that I ate the right things, I rarely get sick, so to have a diagnosis of cancer is kind of like something let you down. Seeing a nutritionist put that control back in my lap a bit -- getting an understanding of what foods I should eat, how much of it, exercise, those were the more tangible things that I could do during this process that could give me a sense of control," Mukai says.