I’m your regular 20-something girl. I dance, I work, I study.
My journey starts just one year ago, when my mum, Kathy discovered she had breast cancer. It was tough to watch my Mum go through it, but the experience was made all the more difficult when my Dad’s sister, Auntie Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer just two weeks after my Mum.
My heart crumbled as I watched the two strongest women in my life, women who had raised me, been there for me, cooked for me, helped me through the struggles of life, be forced to succumb to the realities of cancer.
Auntie Mary tried to deflect, encouraging the family to focus on my mother, who in the initial stages had a worse prognosis. However, it quickly flipped, as it was revealed my Aunt’s cancer had spread and was forced to undergo chemotherapy whilst Mum moved from lumpectomy to radiation.
We were getting on with life post-cancer whirlwind when one day while at work Mary and my Uncle stopped in to see Dad and me. It was an unexpected visit and I could immediately tell something was wrong. My mind raced to what it could be – had her treatment plan changed? Had the cancer spread? Was she going to be OK?
The pair sat us down and revealed that as part of Mary’s treatment, and due to the strong family history, including the death of her mother to ovarian cancer, she had undergone genetic testing to determine whether there was in fact a hereditary link. There was.
Mary told Dad and I she carried the BRCA1 mutation – increasing our risk of breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers significantly.
I immediately booked an appointment at Peter Mac to get my risk assessed.
For me, understanding my risk put me in control, so I could make future decisions with knowledge on my side. To not know was looking forward to the future blindfolded.
Fast forward several months of waiting, and I finally had the genetic testing completed. The day I walked in to receive the results I knew almost immediately that I was positive. From the demeanour of the doctor to the small talk he attempted to make, when he finally revealed the positive diagnosis, I had already moved into the headspace of accept what you can’t change and get on with it.
As the only girl in my large family on the inside I felt alone and uncertain but, on the outside, I portrayed the confidence of someone who didn’t have a care in the world, and that I was just going to get on with life.
It’s been several months since I found out I am BRCA1 positive and while life hasn’t changed, I still dance, I still work, I still study.
I feel so much more positive today than I did the day I received my diagnosis. I actually feel with this knowledge I have the power, the control, the knowledge to make decisions based on facts to plan for a brighter future.
By being brave enough to get tested, I have become the navigator of my own destiny, and have the tools, resources and support to make the decisions that I need to and for this I am grateful.
Perhaps best of all, Dad’s support for me has continued to soar, as he accompanies me to appointments, helping me to make educated decisions.
Together, we wear the BRCA1 badge with pride.