My name is Jo and this is my story.
I’m 36 years old. I found out that I carried the BRCA2 mutation in August 2014. The mutation has affected my family through some of the lesser known cancers such as lymphoma and stomach cancer. My mum has also had ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Unfortunately, my mother chose to just have routine monitoring of her breasts, and within a few years she was diagnosed with an invasive type which doesn’t present as a lump; but more of a spider’s web (so it was difficult to detect).
I decided to get tested for the BRCA gene mutation shortly after hearing my mother was affected by ovarian cancer. Within six weeks of my diagnosis I chose to have double mastectomies and breast reconstructions. I also had my fallopian tubes removed to decrease my risk of ovarian cancer as I still wanted kids at the time (and therefore wasn’t quite ready for a full hysterectomy).
I attempted several rounds of PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) through IVF, hoping that future children wouldn’t inherit the BRCA2 gene mutation, however it didn’t work so we opted for standard IVF and have been lucky to have twin boys and are expecting another boy in July of this year. We will have three kids under two for a period of time, however most people don’t appreciate that I have felt an enormous sense of pressure to complete my family so I can have a hysterectomy by the time I am 38 years old (five years prior to the first family member who was diagnosed with a BRCA cancer).
My body isn’t what it used to be after mastectomies and several rounds of IVF, but I keep telling myself that it is all worth it if I can be blessed with a long and happy life with my husband and children.
My mum lives near me and helps me with my boys a few times a week. I treasure the moments I see her laughing and playing with my boys.
One thing BRCA has made me do is appreciate the little things in life; the small everyday moments that people often take for granted.