Meet the Women of #WeAreWeCan: Lauren Walch

In our new blog series, meet the women behind our #WeAreWeCan campaign. We asked these brave and inspiring women to tell us about some of the challenges and struggles they've faced, and share their stories with us. Our hope is that by talking about our experiences as women, we'll recognize that we are not alone and we can help others who might be struggling with similar issues. WE ARE strong, and together WE CAN overcome anything.


Meet the Women of #WeAreWeCan: Lauren Walch

For our #WeAreWeCan campaign, we sat down with Lauren Walch, age 23, to hear her story. Lauren underwent a preventative double mastectomy when she was just 21 years old. Below, read our conversation with Lauren and watch her video to learn more about her journey and how she's found strength and healing along the way.



You told us you had a preventative double mastectomy at the age of 21—could you share more of your story and what led to your decision to undergo the surgery? 

I remember the day I found out that I have the BRCA1 gene mutation like it was yesterday. I was working at the time, and as soon as I heard my phone ring I knew it was my doctor and I just knew that he was going to tell me that I was positive for the mutation. I was 20 years old at the time, and since my mom had breast cancer for the first time at 25, it really wasn't a decision of whether or not to have the surgery, it was a decision of how soon I would have the surgery. I was only five years away from the age my mom was when she got cancer. I knew because of my age that doctors and others would try to influence me to wait—even my general surgeon up to the day I had surgery encouraged me to wait. But for me, waiting any longer or until I got older was like waiting to get cancer. If I would have waited, I would have been worried ALL the time about it. I would seriously be waiting for cancer to hit me, and why would I do that to myself?   

Meet the Women of #WeAreWeCan: Lauren Walch

How did your double mastectomy affect you in terms of womanhood and feeling like a woman?

It has affected me A LOT in terms of feeling like a woman because I literally got a part of my body that is supposed to define me as a woman cut off. Yes, I got reconstructive surgery and my breasts look normal-ish, but they don't behave normally. I knew that by making the decision to have the surgery, especially being so young, I would have long term affects—I would never be able to breast feed and I would lose all feeling and sensation. I hadn't met my husband when I first made the decision and it weighed heavily on me—would a guy ever accept me because of it? But, in the end, it was more important to protect myself from cancer, so even though I don't necessarily feel like a whole woman, and I don't know if I ever will feel the same way again, it was worth it to me.  

How did you find strength, joy, and healing during your surgery and after? Did you find support from other women? 

It may be a simple answer, but I just had to find the positive. No matter the pain I was in, no matter how down in the dumps I felt, I just had to think about the positive aspects. I like to think that I beat cancer before it beat me; I am a previvor. My mom was also a big part of my healing process, because she has gone through everything I have, so I knew I wasn't alone. She knew exactly how to take care of me and she knew exactly how I felt. 

I was also lucky enough to stumble upon an incredible woman named Paige. I found Paige on Instagram—she is a year older than me, and was going through the EXACT same thing as me. We had our surgeries about 6 months apart and I can't tell you how amazing it was to have someone my age to talk to about this. I learned from Paige that I get to now be a warrior, not a worrier. Paige and a couple of other women founded The Breasties, a non-profit organization that helps connect women who have cancer, who have gone through cancer, who have gene mutations, and more. I was able to attend a retreat they put together in California last summer, where I was able to meet even more women who can relate. I have a community of women who know how I feel and who have gone through what I have, and that is so amazing to me. Having that kind of support group and knowing you aren't alone made a world of difference for me. 

Meet the Women of #WeAreWeCan: Lauren Walch

What advice and/or resources would you offer other women struggling with a similar situation or who are considering a preventative mastectomy? 

Tell them to reach out to me! Seriously! Or to anyone else they know or can find who has gone through it. You can read about it all day long on the internet, or in books, or talk to a doctor (which is also very important), but I felt like for me, I was able to learn the most from other women who have gone through it. I know everyone has a different situation, and are at different stages in life, so it's important to consider those factors as well. You really need to feel comfortable with the surgery, and know exactly what you are getting into before you have it done—it's not something you can change your mind about. 

Who is a woman that inspires you and why? 

Easiest answer: my mom! She is the strongest, most courageous fighter I have ever met. She has gone through stage three breast cancer twice in her life, and she's come out on top both times. She has gone through countless surgeries, and she just keeps going. I don't know how she does it. She is honestly incredible. She could have given up so many times, yet she never did. She has taught me so much about how to find my own personal strength and happiness in life. She has been through so much, and she just is happy with life. She is so inspiring to me, and she was a big reason I was able to get through the surgeries.   

Meet the Women of #WeAreWeCan: Lauren Walch

If you could go back, what advice would you give your teenage self? 

I would tell my teenage self that you are beautiful, no matter what! You don't need to do your hair and makeup every day—just believe in YOU! 

What do you love about your Fawn Design bags? 

I love that my Fawn Design bags are so versatile. I don't have any kids, but I have three of the bags! I use my bags for traveling mostly, and I use the Mini as my purse—it's literally the best purse I have ever had. I can keep everything so organized! 

Photos: Lizzyography