Be Proactive!

 

Unless you´re living under a rock you´ve probably heard about Angelina Jolie´s medical choice by now. Her mother fought breast cancer and died at 56 a couple of years ago. So, as a mother of six kids she decided to have a preventive double mastectomy after she had her genes tested and found out she
carries the BRCA1 gene which increases the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

I am sure only few of you have heard of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene but chances are you might carry it if your mother or grandmother or even aunts in your direct paternal or maternal bloodline had breast cancer!

My mother´s sister died only four months after her 32nd birthday after fighting cancer for three years – my cousins were only 4 and 6 years old when they lost their mother. My oldest cousin developed breast cancer shortly after giving birth to her first kid and died at the age of 26.
My father´s sister died by the age of 36, just weeks after she got diagnosed with breast cancer. She had no kids.

About five years ago my doctor suggested to get my blood tested because of my family history with cancer and unlike Angelina Jolie I can´t afford those pricey blood tests but I am relieved that the General Hospital in Vienna runs a funded program for risk patients. It might take a few years to get your results, but you will get them.

Angelina Jolie decided – like many women before – to go through the process of a double mastectomy after her doctors estimated her risk at 87 percent of breast cancer and 50 percent of ovarian cancer, although the percentage is different for every woman.

I will get my results in a couple of weeks and so far only a few people knew. We talked the inevitable talk of

What would you do if…?
Isn´t it enough to have two blood tests each hear?
You are proactive, aren´t you?
Why would you want to know?
You could die in a car accident before you even develop cancer!

I don´t know! is my usual and quiet honest answer because, I don´t.

When my test results turn out to be negative in terms of BRCA1, I still – as every non-genetically affected woman – can develop breast cancer and cancer in general. That doesn´t mean that there is no treatment as we all know, but experiencing loss early on in my life left me scared and also wondering for that matter if this could happen to me to…

Maybe my aunt had her blood tested if that would have been an option 20 years ago. I have the chance to be proactive now and therefore I am. I was!

Angelina Jolie´s decision is all over the news today. They discuss it on the radio and people are quick to say she made a mistake that there was no reason for her to do this but I disagree.
She witnessed her mother die, who fought cancer for almost a decade; she´s a mother herself and a young woman who is proactive and made this very conscious choice. She´s the heroine of her own life and for her family!

So you´ll get your test results soon, right? What would you do if you carry that gene?

Today I´d say my breasts don´t define me. look at Angelina Jolie.
Today I´d say I choose life.

(Photo via Max Wanger)


 
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10 Comments

  1. Oh boy, I hope your results will be negative and that you don’t carry the BRCA1 gene. As for Angelina, I think she did the right thing. I got super emotional reading the nytimes article this morning. Sending you kisses, sweetie.

  2. Wow, Marti, I do live under a rock. I hadn’t heard about this.
    You are brave for sharing your story and I hope your results come back negative.
    Big hugs. My thoughts are with you sister.

    1. Haha you´re probably not that news-addicted as me :) There´s really nothing to worry about. My risk is very low and since a celebrity came out I feel empowered and not sad so therefore I wanted to make sure to share my thoughts and my story. Thank you!

  3. Hey Marti, came over from Shan’s blog today, not expecting such serious news. You must be in turmoil over this but I believe you are doing the right thing finding out your risks. If you have to make decisions based on the results so be it but at least you are giving yourself that choice. Hope things go in your favour, stay strong.
    Janice x

  4. Angelina Jolie is my idol, and i love her even more for this. I think she definitely made the right decision. What this got me thinking about is would a man remove his testicles to drastically reduce his chance of testicular cancer? And woould he write an article about it? I do not even know if that is something they can test for. But it got me thinking.

  5. Very nicely put, Martie. Angelina Jolie’s piece also struck a chord with me since I was in fact diagnosed with breast cancer in December. I got the genetics test done afterwards just to see what course of treatment to take and luckily it came back negative (except for a little tweak that’s still of unknown significance).

    It’s scary as hell and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost so many to the disease. The fear can drive you to do many things, but hopefully paralysis isn’t one of them. Good for you for taking your health seriously and into your own hands. They say that great strides have been made in breast cancer and it’s such a widely researched area so at least we have that going for us.

    I hope you get good news from the test. I was a nervous wreck waiting weeks for the results (and finally got it right on my birthday) so I can’t even imagine waiting five years. Thinking of you!