My name is Alix and this is my story.
My family history of breast cancer is somewhat extensive, perhaps even a little unusual. Going through generations on my mother’s side and possibly more, I’m not sure.
My grandmother Eileen was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40’s. She passed away in February 2009, thankfully just from living out a long life and nothing to do with cancer, but from what she told me her cancer seemed quite low risk. She had a mastectomy of one of her breasts after being diagnosed and then went on to live out the rest of her life completely healthy.
My mother Philippa (her daughter) on the other hand didn’t have a very similar experience. When I was 3 years old and she was in her early 30’s she was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer with some of it present in her lymph nodes. She had a lumpectomy, some of her nodes removed and extensive chemo and was in remission for about 9 years.
Fast forward to when I was 13. My mother and I were hit by a car after having dinner together at a restaurant. My mother saved my life by pushing me out of the way of the car and taking the full force of the impact. Apart from the physical injuries during the full body x-rays and scans shadows were found on her lungs. I will admit she was a fairly heavy smoker and I’m sure that it would have contributed to her cancer re-occurring but who really knows, it could even be metastasised from the breast cancer.
So she had more chemo and more chemo because there was no way to operate. Then the doctors discovered more lumps in her brain (which were causing confusion and disorientation) and then finally on her liver. She passed away in September 2000 with my older brother Lee by her bedside and left a huge hole in our lives. She was my best friend and I miss her every day!
Today, I am 23 and I have been diagnosed with a BRCA1 gene mutation which most likely came from my grandfather Phillip who was of Jewish heritage and not my grandmother Eileen who was Irish. So it might have been either a co-incidence that my grandmother had breast cancer or perhaps there was some Jewish in her family too that got lost in the generations. I may never know.
I don’t really know how to feel about my BRCA1, the statistics are not great and due to my mother’s prognosis if I don’t do anything and I do get breast or ovarian cancer, it might kill me. There’s no way to know if my mother had the same gene mutation but I have a feeling she probably would have.
So, I have a decision to make on whether or not to remove my breasts. I don’t have a family and I haven’t got a boyfriend so thinking about possibly having to remove my ovaries too is hard. My doctors have given me a window of 5 years to make a decision about this before they will start to test me yearly, and possibly more often, for changes.
I guess I just have to decide whether I want to take the chance and possibly become another statistic or go on to live my life, hopefully free of cancer.