Sammy’s Story

02 Aug 2016 by Krystal Barter

Sammy Bender 2

My name is Sammy and this is my story.

We all have that one person as a child that you look up too, that person who lights up a room with their smile and makes you feel like the most special person in the world with their kindness and love. For me that person was my Nanny Georgette, the most kind-hearted, inspirational woman I ever knew.

I will never forget the day she sat in front of my brother and I and cried because she had lost her hair due to chemotherapy. She was so scared that she would frighten us with her appearance. I never understood how she could believe we would be afraid of her because regardless of the way she looked, I still idolised everything about her. This was her second cancer diagnosis, she was currently fighting ovarian cancer and had previously battled breast cancer in her early 30’s whilst raising three children in the 80’s.

A few weeks before my 14th birthday, my Mum told me she thought it would be a great idea to have my birthday dinner at Nanny’s as it could possibly be the last birthday I celebrated with her. I didn’t believe Mum and honestly believed Nanny would make it through, she was the strongest person I knew and had beaten cancer before – to me she was superhero who could fight off anything and she was going to be here forever!!

12 days after my birthday I sat beside Nanny’s bed. It was her 54th birthday and this would be the last time I would see her. I will never forget the following morning when I woke to see my Mum’s tear stained face in front of me to tell me Nanny was gone, it was one of the worst moments of my life.

11 years after Nanny’s passing, Mum received the call from the research team to tell her they had discovered the BRCA1 gene in Nanny’s DNA. It had always been assumed that Nan was a BRCA carrier so Mum and my Aunty had been going through the annual check up’s anyway but this call just cemented what had always been presumed. We were visiting family in Adelaide at the time and just after our return, Mum and my Aunty were tested. Seven weeks later they received their results, my Aunty was not a carrier, but my mum was, which meant I too had a 50% chance of being a carrier.

I chose to be tested shortly after and six weeks later was back in the Peter Mac office to get my results. Mum knew my results before we entered the room, the nurses face gave it away before we’d even sat down, I too was a BRCA1 carrier and that was the day I discovered a lot of things were about to change in the very near future.

Mum of course felt guilt and sadness about my positive result, I know the agony I would feel if it were my girls were to test positive to something they inherited from me. As a Mum it is my job to protect them, keep them safe and help them live a healthy happy life and although passing on a BRCA mutation is certainly not intentional, the guilt you feel nonetheless is still there.

For me, my result was a mixed bag of emotions. I was convinced I was negative so the initial shock of my results took a while to kick in but when they did kick in I was angry, at no one or nothing in particular, I just was. The day after I received my results I sat on the floor of my shower crying questioning why this had to happen, why this was a possibility for my daughters and why this had to occur in my family after we had already been through enough.

It was two months after my diagnosis that I made the call regarding surgery. I had thought everyday about all the preventative options offered to me and I knew within myself that surgery was the best option for me. Now 12 months on I am due to have my first of three surgeries commencing in just over two weeks with a double mastectomy at the beginning of September. I am scared, nervous and overwhelmed by the thought of it, but I know for my own health, my future and the future of my family, I have made the best decision moving forward.

I still have a very long road ahead but I know with the support of my amazing family, as well as the wonderful Pink Hope community, I will only come out the other side a healthier, happier person.

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