Learning BRCA

It wasn’t until Mom had a recurrence in 2001 when she read about BRCA mutations. Her recurrence was in the opposite breast, completely unrelated to her first breast cancer diagnosis in the early 1990’s, when she had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Linked to Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, she found reasoning within her BRCA research to get tested for the mutation. The information was still new, but luckily having a PHD in Library Science, she was able to obtain the information needed that lead her towards the decision of testing for it. She was in her early 50’s at the time and did in fact test positive for BRCA1 mutation.

She informed me about being BRCA when I was 25. She knew the chance of passing the mutation down to my sister (who was only 17 at the time and tested at 19), or I, was 50/50, and if I did in fact carry the mutation, thought 25 would be a good age to start getting baseline screenings (mammographies, sonograms and MRI’s).

We met with a genetic counselor who briefly explained what it meant to carry the BRCA mutation, but sadly, having a Mom who had breast cancer twice, both times needing chemotherapy, and a double mastectomy and oophorectomy after her 2nd diagnosis, I knew exactly what having this mutation meant. I didn’t have to read any statistics (which indicate by the way, chance of breast cancer over one’s lifetime with BRCA1 mutation is 80%).

I waited an anguishing few weeks for my results to come in and the news was unfortunately my worst fear come true, positive for BRCA1 mutation. My Mom was sitting next to me at the appointment and I completely broke down, sobbing on her shoulder. It was 2005 and again, I was only 25 years old (my sister tested positive at 19 years old). The question we had for the genetic counselor, what comes next? What should we do?

Hindsight my BRCA sisters is 20/20….

Hello BRCA Sisters!

Simply search #brca on Instagram and you will find over 37,000 images connected to beautiful, brave, strong women in various stages of their BRCA+ journey.  It is significantly more common now to find women, as young as age 23, brave their BRCA world head-on with preventative mastectomies and oophorectomies.

My story is just 1 out of thousands of women who have also been diagnosed with BRCA mutations.  My story starts at the pre-adolescent age of 10 when my mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990, when little was known on how to effectively treat triple negative breast cancers.  The now common A/C and Taxol chemotherapy regiments were relatively brand new and exploratory back then.  The medical community knew nothing of BRCA genetic mutations and its connection to breast and ovarian cancers.

Perhaps others can find comfort, solace, and further understanding of what it means to identify as BRCA through my story.  I share with all my sister BRCA fighters and encourage you to engage, learn, ask, and seek support.  We are all in this together.

I start my blog with a Facebook post I made the night I received my remission news about a week after my mastectomy surgery.  I, like my mom, am a breast cancer survivor. Mastectomy is just one small piece of my BRCA story, but quite an important piece to share.

February 3rd, 2017

Facebook Family & Friends – In light of all the heavy political news, I’d like to take a moment to announce some very positive news!

At the end of January, my family & I embarked upon the second phase of my breast cancer journey; one that we hoped would be the very last, necessary step to conquer and prevent the disease from ever recurring again. I am ecstatic to report, that I’m now 100% in remission!!

While this last phase physically changed me, it will never define who I am as a woman.  I will always be a mother, daughter, wife, sister, aunt, niece. I bare scars of a survivor and damn proud of it!

Thank you again to my wonderful circle of support.  I am very lucky and extremely thankful!!

“Remember that bravery is not a lack of fear, but the ability to move forward in spite of fear”…

Much more to come my BRCA sisters…  stay tuned!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton