My name is Trisha and this is my story.
About two years ago, I discovered I had a genetic mutation, called BRCA2 that means I am predisposed to certain types of cancer. Figures say I could be 60 – 80% more likely to get breast cancer and 20 – 40% more likely to get ovarian cancer in my lifetime. What’s more the types of cancer often associated with this gene fault can often be aggressive and resistant to treatment.
My Mum contracted breast cancer at 43. I was 17. Mine and my family’s world was rocked. My Mum on the other hand had always had an eerie inevitability and acceptance about the diagnosis. It was as though she always knew the day would come. Her own Mum died at the ripe old age of 53, and there were also a couple of Aunty’s in this genetic cancer pot. Three years later, she died, ravaged by a cancer so aggressive it ran through her body like wildfire.
12 years ago on 22nd January, the day she died, was the day my game of hide and seek with the dreaded C bomb began. I refused to even talk about getting tested back then. I was 21 and didn’t want a ‘life sentence’ hanging over me. Ironic really, because I felt like I had one regardless.
Running from my home town Cardiff in the cold South Wales (not the hot new one I live in now), I went to London to begin my journey of avoidance where I found lots of booze, an obsession with exercise and discovered my inability to hold down any significant or meaningful relationships. Almost nine years after that and it was time to run again. This time to the other side of the world; Australia. Surely cancer couldn’t find me here.
During this time, I twice decided to speak to someone about getting tested. However at the time I couldn’t be tested as there were no living relatives who had been, or were currently suffering from, cancer. Then sadly, five years ago, my maternal Uncle died of prostate cancer and had tested positive for carrying the BRCA2 gene mutation.
With the ability to find out my fate, my mindset shifted. It also coincided with meeting the lovely Mr F. Kind, funny, caring, and one of the key reasons for making my decision to get genetic testing. He made me believe I could have a life. A life where someone loves me, where I could think about having children. A life where I had a future.
In the two years since I tested positive for carrying the BRCA2 gene mutation I have never looked back. Finding out was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I have been bowled over by the level of care I have received from the team at Randwick through the screening they provide, and despite a couple of scares and one unpleasant biopsy, have been eternally grateful to be part of the program.
However, as the saying goes, knowledge is power, and I am now using the knowledge I have to try and prolong my life. In a few days I will be undergo surgery to have a preventative mastectomy, which will reduce my chances of breast cancer by 90%. Whilst this will undoubtedly be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, I enter the operation feeling so incredibly lucky.
Lucky that my late Uncle was selfless enough to take a test that has given me information that may dramatically prolong my life, whilst he was coming to the end of his.