Cancer is something that has started to become quite common in my life over the last 10 years. My mother got diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma early 1999 and started her first lot of treatment soon after. My grandfather got diagnosed with Cancer that same year. Mum spent a lot of time nursing my grandfather whilst trying to deal with her own treatment. My grandfather passed away January 2000.
At that time we thought it was purely coincidence that had them diagnosed so close together. However just over 12 months later we found out my sister aged 32 had Breast Cancer. At the time the connection of all the cancers had not been made so she chose to just have a lumpectomy and chemotherapy for her treatment. Two years later she was diagnosed with secondary cancer in her bones and liver - and lost her battle December 2004. Prior to passing away Mum was convinced that there was some relationship between all the cancers - especially when you started looking into other family histories - my grandfathers sister had died of ovarian cancer, and his mother had died of breast cancer too. My sister and mother both did the test and they were found to be BRCA2 positive. Both myself and my brother wanted to know the results, my other sister decided she did not want to know - we all made our own choices which we all respected.
At the time I had not had my family and decided to just have the knowledge that a risk was there. Unfortunately my other sister was then diagnosed with her Breast Cancer (aged 42) - this was just two weeks before my daughter was born. We had a number of discussions about it - but she did say her doctor recommended me getting the test as the chances were pretty high that I too would be positive. I waited until after my son was born (only 16 months later) to have the test. I got tested at a very difficult time for me, as during this whole time my mother had been in and out of treatment for reoccurrences of her non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and to top it all off my father was found to have Motor Neuron Disease - this on top of everything else was pretty hard. I must admit I went into the test honestly thinking that I would show negative - my logic had been that I was soooo different to my sisters. They were very fit and healthy females - watching their diets and doing loads of exercise - I on the other hand was the last to exercise and loved my food so much that I was pretty over-weight. I also thought - surely our family has had enough bad luck. The waiting list is quite long for the test - so it was more than six months before I got the call to go in for the counselling and test. Eight weeks later the results were in and I was to say the least disappointed that my logic hadn't worked - yep I was positive too.
At the point my focus then turned to doing something about it - as I had two young children and I did not want to sit around waiting for this thing to get me too. Within four months I was having my surgery (prophylactic bilateral mastectomy) and reconstruction at the same time - probably a silly thing to do with two children under three - but thanks to a very supportive husband we got through it. We made the decision at the time to not have my ovaries removed due to the other risks of having them removed prior to 40 - so I'm on count down to the next lot of surgery to have all my risks reduced.
Unfortunately to finish my story - my Mum was finally diagnosed with Leukaemia as a result of all of her chemo treatment June last year and passed away 6 weeks later. I am thankful that due to her persistence she made the choice to have the BRCA test as I believe this has given me a chance to beat this ahead of time.
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