UPDATE: Kelly’s surgeons at Beaumont Health System say the surgery was a success. Hours after the surgery, Kelly was smiling with her family in her hospital room. We’ll check in with Kelly next week after she has had more time to recover.
Kelly Rothe was just nine-years-old when her mother, Nancy, died of breast cancer. Now, at the age of 20, Rothe has made a life-changing and, perhaps, life-saving decision.
“Growing up, I watched my mom go through breast cancer. I watched what it did to my family. I never want to do that to my kids. I don’t even want to have the preventative surgery when I’m with my kids because I want to be able to hold them, and play with them and run with them," Rothe said.
Rothe’s aunt also passed away from breast cancer. At age 18, Rothe learned she had a mutation of the BRCA gene. Doctors told her she had an 87 percent chance of getting breast cancer at some point in her life. Soon after, she decided to have a double-mastectomy.
“People are often concerned that I’m going to regret this later in life, or that this was a decision that I didn’t think about enough. I’m young. Most 20-year-olds are making other sorts of decisions. But, for me, the way I see it is…there are things in my life that I might regret later on like who I date, who I marry, tattoos I get, jobs I have. That’s all unknown. But, for me, the only thing I am certain of is that I will never regret this," Rothe said.
Rothe asked Beaumont Health System breast surgeon Dr. Nayana Dekhne to perform the procedure.
“When I saw a 20-year-old on my schedule, I said to my staff, ‘Why are you booking 20-year-olds for mastectomies for me? You’re wasting my time.’ They said, ‘Well, why don’t you go in and see who she is.’ Then, I was convinced she had made her decision," Dr. Dekhne said.
The procedure will reduce Kelly’s breast cancer risk by 90 percent. Dr. Dekhne says Kelly is the youngest person she has performed this procedure on at Beaumont.
“This is not a guarantee. But, this is the best approach we have as of now," Dr. Dekhne said.
Kelly says sharing her story has been therapeutic.
Rothe added, “No one looks forward to feeling pain. I know the recovery is going to be a long and painful process. But, for me, it’s pain now, or do you want to go through cancer later in life?”
Along with the mastectomy, surgeons at Beaumont will prepare Kelly for reconstruction surgery later this summer.
“It’s a big operation. There’s a lot to do. There are a lot of very technical components that are involved with it. It’s not for everyone. Kelly’s the perfect patient to do this from a number of standpoints. From a physical standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint and a preparation standpoint," Beaumont Dr. Michael Meininger said.
Rothe chose to share her story with the media because she wants to help educate people about breast cancer and genetic testing.
“This has been a sort of therapy by putting my story out there. I have received thousands of positive well-wishes. There are a few negative ones as well, but there are thousands of positive wishes," Rothe said, "When you have that many people praying for you and sending you good vibes, how could it do any harm?”
Rothe lives in the Ann Arbor area, but came to Beaumont Hospital because she feels comfortable with the physicians. Some of the same doctors who treated her mother now take care of her.
“You have the best surgeons in the world right here," Rothe said.