Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘A mastectomy is not a free boob job. It is an amputation.’

Amy Safaty, Hauppauge

“I call myself a breast cancer previvor, someone who has a genetic predisposition to cancer. After my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, my sisters and I underwent genetic testing. We were all positive for the BRCA2 mutation. The gene normally functions to fight cancer cells in the body, but the mutation increases the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

“I was completely shocked. My mother was negative for the mutation, so I assumed I would be, too. I was faced with impossible decisions: Either remove my breasts or undergo an MRI and mammogram every six months. At first, I said there’s no way I’m going to chop off my breasts. But there’s something called ‘scanxiety,’ having to go through those scans every six months. And it was expensive; I got a bill for over $2,000 for one MRI. Then a classmate in pharmacy school was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she gave me the push I needed to stop fooling around.

Over time, I turned my pain into power.

“In 2020, at 29 years old, I had a prophylactic double mastectomy, the first of five surgeries to remove and reconstruct my breasts. A mastectomy is NOT a free boob job. It is an amputation. It is raw, emotional, painful and heartbreaking. At the same time, I went through two rounds of cryopreservation so I could keep my fertility. I didn’t know where my life was going, but I wanted to have a family. Genetic testing is controversial, but there is a test that can detect the mutation, and if I do have the option of removing that mutation from my family tree, why wouldn’t I?

“Over time, I turned my pain into power. I began to make decisions to impact my future and turn my experience into a way to empower and educate others. I’ve partnered with amazing organizations such as The Breasties, The Previvor and BRCAStrong to help advocate for the breast cancer community. In October, everything is pink, pink, pink, but breast cancer is year-round. One of my biggest platforms is advocating for people to do a breast self-exam once a month, every month, on the first of the month. It’s part of a campaign called ‘Feel it on the first.’ If you feel something, say something. Early detection saves lives.”

Interviewed by Barbara Schuler