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Renee’s Story

04 Jul 2017 by Krystal Barter
Renee’s Story

My name is Renee. This is my story.

I’m 45 years old. I am married, with 3 daughters aged 7, 15 and 18.

My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977. She had no input into her treatment at the time, and was given a radical mastectomy and trial chemo, this made her very sick. She then had radiotherapy, waiting patiently all day for her turn and enduring many burns and infections. Needing a prosthesis to help her aching back and too ashamed to venture to David Jones to purchase a breast form she made her own from stockings and millet birdseed. My grandmother really struggled, no information and all alone, she passed away 2 years later in 1979, aged 57.

In 1999 my Aunty Rita (dad’s sister) was diagnosed with early breast cancer, aged 55. This made it four women in two generations of our family that were affected by breast cancer. (My grandmother’s sister at age 58 and her daughter at 48). My aunty decided to have her breast removed and was referred to participate in the kConFab research program through Westmead hospital, under Prof Judy Kirk. The risk of the cancer returning in her other breast was more than she could bear so she had that removed as well and donated the tissue to research. Extensive genetic tests over a 3 year period confirmed she had the BRCA2 mutation.

With the information then passed onto my dad about the mutation it was our turn to decide if we wanted to know. So 14 years ago we started the process, Dad first and then me, lots of counselling, at times it was overwhelming, information overload! Dad’s result came back positive and then mine……positive. I had the BRCA2 gene.

That day I found out is still a blur, my husband was so positive and supportive telling me everything is going to be ok, initially your head is in a spin and it’s all you can think about!
My older brother didn’t want to be tested at the time. However, he has since tested in the last couple of years and is negative, which is great news for him & his kids.

Once I gave myself time to process the news we started to put a plan in place. Therefore, in June 2016 I had my ovaries removed, and then 4 weeks ago on the 23rd March 2017, I had a prophylactic bilateral nipple sparing mastectomy straight to implant.

My breast tissue was sent away for testing and it’s come back all clear, which is fantastic.

It’s the hardest thing I have ever done and I know my body is never going to feel the same, but as a mother of three girls, I wanted to show them that we can beat this before it may beats us! I am extremely lucky that I have wonderful support from my husband, my family and friends. I’m also thankful that my aunty donated her breast tissue to research; it gave me and hopefully many others a wonderful opportunity to manage our future. Knowledge is power!

Now my thoughts are focused on my girls. Have I passed the gene onto them? All I can do is educate them and make sure they are checking themselves regularly and when the time comes be there for them…..if they choose to be tested.

When life gives you something that makes you feel afraid, that’s when life gives you a chance to be brave.

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