At the age of 29, Lesley Murphy was making a living by traveling around the world and sharing her experiences on her blog called ‘The Road Les Traveled’. However, her travels were put to a halt when the travel blogger and Bachelor Alum tested positive for a gene that linked her with a high risk of developing cancer.
Three years prior, Murphy’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment (today, she is cancer free). So, Murphy and her two sisters decided to get tested for genetic variations that could reflect a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Her older sister tested positive, her younger sister tested negative, and Murphy tested positive for the BRCA2 gene.
Deciding to undergo surgery
In Mid-February, when Murphy received her test results, she was on her way to her annual gynecological check-up. Her doctor said that it was not wise to sit on something that is potentially cancerous and right at that moment, Murphy decided that she would undergo a double mastectomy. Her surgery was scheduled in April of 2017 at an Arkansas hospital. Following her surgery, recovery was rather rough on her, as she was experiencing a lot of pain. “Every time I moved, I felt like my chest was detaching from my body,” she said. Murphy even admitted that she relied on her mother to care for her. “She dresses me in the mornings. She also measures my drains twice daily which are the tubes you see coming out of my lovely red apron I never take off. She’s the freaking best,” she wrote.
Sharing her intimate journey
Nevertheless, Murphy posted raw and intimate pictures from her surgery and her recovery on her Instagram page, keeping her fans up to date throughout her entire process. “Looking back at this day from where I'm sitting now, I'm relieved. I kind of can't believe I made that decision, and so quickly,” she wrote. She planned to travel throughout the month of March and her best friend was getting married in the fall, so she knew that she wanted to be fully healed by then. “So, April it was. April 11th. There was no time like the present. There was no time like NOW to take control of my health,” she wrote.
After her double mastectomy, Murphy had expanders put into her body and saline inserted into them once a week so that it could create space for breast implants. “The best way I can describe them is like two big boulders on my chest. True story: I tell everyone to poke them just because I think it's hilarious to see their look of shock once they feel how hard they are,” she wrote. Murphy explained in a post on her Instagram page that she experienced a huge difference from undergoing double mastectomy surgery to undergoing breast reconstruction surgery. Her surgeon opted for smaller implants than they originally planned. “Dr. Wright, thank you for ridding me of those boulders and giving me my normalcy back. You are a magician and I am in awe of your talents,” she wrote.
Why go public?
Murphy said that she believes it is important to share her story with others because she could not find similar personal stories online that reflected someone’s true and genuine words. “I knew the minute I was going to do the surgery, I was also going to document it. I knew it would be helpful. We’re never going through something alone” she said. The Bachelor Alum first went public with her story on the Bachelor Winter Games finale before heading into the Fantasy Suite with Dean Unglert. She explained to Dean that during the time of her surgery, she was with someone; however, the relationship ended before the healing process was finished. She also revealed that she had not been with anyone else since and the idea of taking things to the next level was rather nerve-racking for her.
Countless fans commended her on her sincerity and so did dean, calling her the strongest woman he had ever met in his life. “She's a very courageous person and she's strong and I think that's first and foremost what really attracted me to her and of course she's beautiful. If you want to talk about someone who's kind to everyone, it's her. It's kind of annoying when we go places... she literally makes friends with every person we meet,” said Dean. Murphy spoke out about how she and Dean bonded over the fact that both of their mothers were diagnosed with breast cancer, although his mother unfortunately passed away. “He knew about my surgery and my recent double mastectomy. He had the sweetest things to say about it. He was like, ‘I commend you so much for doing that’,” she said.
Adjusting to a new life
Today, 30-year-old Murphy said that she is feeling a lot better and she is getting used to her new body. “I was never attached to my breasts, but they were still a body part that grew on me for 29 years. Even some mornings when I wake up now, my breasts feel foreign. But I’m getting there. And I love them now,” she said. Murphy is also working with Embrace Scar Therapy, a type of scar therapy product. However, she stressed that she is merely trying to help her scars heal, as opposed to covering them up. “I love the scars. I don’t wish them away. They make me feel strong and brave and courageous,” she said.
For Murphy, the worst part was not being able to exercise on a regular basis. Yet, nowadays, she is 90% back to normal and working out 4 to 5 times per week. “I can't swim or soak in water yet (a real struggle, since I love baths), and I still have a ways to go before I'm back at the fitness level I was at before all of this” she wrote. She also noted that her surgeries have limited her ability to travel, but until she can get back on the road again, she is being met with enormous love and support from her fans and other cancer survivors. “Knowledge is power and I feel powerful knowing I kicked cancer's ass before it could kick mine. The past 3 months have been a whirlwind. Thank you to all of my followers, readers, friends and family from the bottom of my heart for all of your messages and support. I wish I could adequately explain how much you have helped my recovery process,” she said.
Murphy stresses that it is important to constantly check both breasts for lumps and bumps, ask questions, and undergo regular screenings if breast cancer runs in the family. A lot of breakthroughs have been made with breast cancer research and treatment in recent years and Murphy encourages other young individuals not to be naïve and think that it could never happen to them. While she realizes that undergoing a double mastectomy may be frightening and painful, she wants others to know that they would be surprised to learn how strong they are. “If a double mastectomy is what saves me from a future of fighting breast cancer, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat,” she wrote.