This evening, I sat in a coffee shop with my daughter. She was working on homework and I was filling out a questionnaire for a cancer study. I recalled a conversation, in which my mother told me in time, hopefully before I had to contend with it, the scientific community would have a better understanding of genetics. As I shared previously, my mother was diagnosed with both ovarian and breast cancer.
After she passed away, I spent my twenties busy with family and work. We were all starting to recover from losing my Mom when, at the age of 43, my first cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. She survived the breast cancer, but at 45 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and by 47, we lost her too.
Although my mother didn’t have genetic testing, my cousin did. The results showed that she was positive for the BRCA1 mutation. This mutation increases the risk of breast cancer by up to 87%, and can increase the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 60%. My family had proven those risks a reality.
For years I avoided genetic testing. Still, to be on the safe side, my breast surgeon and I chose a surveillance program. A little over a year ago I had a breast cancer scare. While I was lucky enough to not have the disease itself, that scare brought me face to face with a crystalline reality; I was ready to fight. I could not go home and tell my kids I didn’t do everything possible to stay alive.
I was ready to face whatever my own genetic testing might bring, and it brought its worst, I was positive for the BRCA 1 mutation.
I found myself having to make my most important decisions at 32.
My life literally depended upon it.