My name is Nicole and this is my story.
I first became aware of my family’s breast cancer history at age 14 when I was referred to the Sydney Breast Clinic and underwent my first ultrasound to find out that I had fibroadenomas. At that time my family history did not mean a lot to me and little did I know that later in my life it would consume my every thought.
My Mum and Aunt were both diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40’s. At least two women from every generation in my family had been affected by breast cancer going back as far as my great-great grandmother and her sister.
In 2008 my mum received the news that she was BRCA1 positive, the day after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Sadly this information came too late for my mum to take control of her health to reduce her risk. I feel an overwhelming sadness that my mum has had to endure this illness but at the same time I admire her strength and persistence encouraging us to be vigilant with our own health. My mum has given her sisters, her daughters and her grandchildren a life-long gift, the information (that our family is BRCA1+) so that we can take control of our own health and make informed decisions to reduce our risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
In 2010 my sister and I decided to pursue genetic testing and find out if we too had inherited the gene mutation. I was shocked to learn that both my sister and I was BRCA1 positive. My mum was devastated at the news as she kept telling us it was all her fault and I felt completely lost as to what I should do with this information. The high risk breast clinic at RPA Hospital arranged for me to have 6mthly screening (consisting of mammogram/ultrasound/MRI) which I underwent for 2.5yrs. A routine ultrasound detected 3 small lesions in my breast tissue and it was at that moment that I decided I would have the preventative surgery.
With my family complete, in October 2012 at age 37 I had a bilateral salpingo – oophorectomy and in April this year I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Whilst I carry the scars of hereditary breast cancer I now have peace of mind…I have reduced my risk that will hopefully prevent me from going through what my mum has had to endure.
My Mum has survived breast cancer twice and is currently living with metastatic ovarian cancer. Fortunately for now her cancer is maintained with cycles of chemotherapy treatment and a strong positive attitude. Through all of this my mum has been an amazing support to both my sister and I as we underwent preventative surgeries this year.
I am so grateful for the support my sister and I have received from our family, our friends and the Pink Hope community – you have helped make our journey so much easier!
Pink Hope is an amazing community of women and families – every day I am amazed by the courage and strength of the women in our community who offer their support and personal experiences.