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Emily Niebrugge

My dad Drew was a donor. He helped more than 70 other people through tissue donation. His grafts were able to heal others through breast reconstruction post mastectomy, bladder slings, abdominal wall repair and oral plastic surgery.

Nearly three years after his donation, my story came full circle.

Three years ago, I underwent genetic testing to determine if I carry the BRCA-1 gene mutation. People who inherit harmful variants of the BRCA-1 gene have increased risks of several cancers ā€” most notably breast and ovarian cancer.

My mom had breast cancer twice in her life ā€” once at 29, and once again at age 40. For these reasons, my doctors decided to test me for the BRCA-1 gene mutation.

The test was positive.

This means my risk of developing breast cancer is 87 percent, and my risk of developing ovarian cancer is 50 percent.

I made the empowered decision to undergo preventative surgery to reduce my risk of developing cancer from 87 percent to 2 percent. To do this, I chose to have a preventative bilateral mastectomy.

Because of this surgery, I woke up a tissue graft recipient. My plastic surgeon used Alloderm grafts to hold my tissue expanders in place after my mastectomy. She will use more when I have my breast implants placed.

These are the same grafts my dad was able to donate three years ago.

Now that my journey has come full circle, I know firsthand the impact my dad made on this world. Iā€™m so proud to be his daughter, and so grateful to my donor family for the gift they have given me. What a legacy to leave behind.