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Breast cancer and the BRCA gene

From Sadie Taylor

When I was 27 yrs old, married with two small children, having a shower one busy morning I found a lump in my right breast. After a frantic call to the doctor and a rushed visit to him, he refered me to a consultant and within a week it had been confirmed and the lump removed. After another week we were told that it was malignant and I would need radiotherapy. All this was very scary and I was concerned for my children, even though I was told that I would survive this, it worries you that it may come back or spread and you worry about the people around you.

Radiotherapy is not the easiest thing to cope with, you are tired and sore and are very low. With the treatment over, you get back to some sort of normality, but having 6 monthly check ups is scary and for all those women like me, mammograms are uncomfortable and worrying.

The check ups then came yearly and it all seems fine, then someone mentions genetic testing and finding about your family history. My maternal aunt died from cancer after surviving her original breast cancer and I thought this seems interesting and I have children so it would be good to know if they are at risk.

In 2004 I went to Guys hospital, the most amazing man talked my daughter and I through the testing and I had my blood tested, 9 months later the result came through and said without a doubt that I had the BRCA1 gene, this gene likes to promote breast cancer and ovarian cancer, the risk of getting these goes up and I felt like a time bomb, after discussing the test with my surgeon it was decided, and rightly so, that I would have a mastectomy with reconstruction and a hysterectomy.

My mastectomy took place Sept 05 with my left breast healing very well with the inplant intact. My right breast is another matter, on the outside all looked ok for reconstruction, but from time implant was placed there, things did not look too good, it was very swollen and the wound did not want to heal, this inplant was removed after 5 weeks. I had a infection caused by the skin which had recieved the radiotherapy not able to knit together due to nerve damage. I will be fitted with a prosthetic just before Christmas.

Life is very strange sometimes. I am alive and well with no risk of breast cancer at all. I am to have my hysterectamy in Feb 06, and both my children and close members of my family are having their blood tested soon, their result will not take as long as they know now what the gene looks like in my pattern. Bit heavy hope this makes sense. I am divorced now with a boyfriend and I am hoping to complete my training to be a teacher.

Life goes on, so explore your options and ask lots of questions and take risks, if it means you will be around longer for your family and yourself, then go for it. Try to be positive and have fun with the ones you love.

GOOD LUCK AND KEEP SMILING.....

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Updated: 28 September 2009