My name is Gemma and this is my story.
I’m 29 now and in 2014 I lost my mum to triple negative breast cancer. She only lived 18 months after diagnosis and passed away on her 54th birthday when I was 24.
A month or so after she passed away, I spoke to my GP about genetic testing because I knew that my mother’s grandmother also had breast cancer but I was unsure if she survived, what age she was etc. My mum and I actually shared a GP who was very supportive, she referred me to family cancer clinic. A couple of weeks later I received a phone call from them. I was asked a few questions and was told that my Mums cancer probably wasn’t genetic, and I may not be eligible for testing which meant I had to wait longer to see a genetic counsellor. At that stage, I was 24 and I wasn’t that worried about BRCA. I hadn’t done much research into genetics and despite being slightly disappointed, I accepted what they said.
I waited 9 months to see the genetic counsellor, and was told the same thing.
I answered questions and filled in my family history and was told I wasn’t eligible for testing and if I wanted the test – it would cost me $2500 which wasn’t an option for me at the time.
Fast forward to 2017 and my mother’s sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, thankfully it was caught early and after surgery and chemo she is still with us. Then, in early 2018 my younger sister tested positive to BRCA1.
I spoke to my GP again who referred me back to the original family cancer clinic and urged me to call them immediately. This time when I mentioned my mum, aunt and sister – I had an appointment within 2 weeks and the results a month after.
I tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation.
I have decided to have a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction before I turn 30. And so, I had my first appointment with my breast surgeon in February 2019 and an MRI scheduled in for the same month.
After my appointment I was inspired to share my story on Facebook including a selfie with my drawn on boobs (the surgeons measurements) and I was blown away by the support I received as well as so many people with questions about BRCA1.
Testing positive for BRCA1 wasn’t an easy thing and it took me a while to accept it. At times, I felt really alone even though I knew I had support around me. But through Pink Hope and social media I found out that I wasn’t alone at all.
There are so many women in my position who are helpful and eager to share. This type of support has helped me immensely and is one of many reasons why Pink Hope is the best community to become a part of.
It is the reason why I am brave enough to share my story with you today because I know that someone else out there may read it and feel the support that I felt when I started my BRCA journey.