My cancer journey started in 2008 when my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I am not embarrassed to admit that I was clueless about this type of cancer.
Within weeks, we were thrust into this alien world of surgery, recovery, treatment, anti-sickness drugs, chronic fatigue, and hair loss. It was like living in a nightmare and it wasn’t even happening to me.
We got nearly two years before the cancer returned. Ovarian cancer can be managed like a chronic illness, and this was the case for the first three or four years. However, the gaps between treatment were shrinking, and the options running out.
My mum was moved to a hospice just before Christmas 2013. She spent Christmas Day at home with us, even managing to complain about some of her presents and give our family some precious memories.
My mum died in January 2014, at the age of 64.
Before this, they found that my mum was a BRCA 2 alteration carrier. She is of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, and the prevalence of BRCA alterations is higher in this population. I have found out that I am also a carrier, giving me an 80% lifetime risk of breast cancer, and 20% risk of ovarian cancer. From the age of 30 I have had an annual MRI breast scan, and many conversations about my options for risk reducing surgery.
I am so grateful to have this knowledge, and I only wish this had been the case for my mum all those years ago. Knowledge is power, and this sentiment helps me to reconcile the cards our family have been dealt. I spoke with a consultant who told me to have my family first and then think about my risk reducing options. I have had two beautiful girls and am on the waiting list for a double mastectomy and reconstruction.
When I think about surgery, I can’t deny it scares me, but if I can show the same strength that my mum did in surviving this disease for as long as she did, I will make myself and my family proud. I know I will need to feel my mum guiding me, but I’m stronger than I think I am, we all are.
For those who suspect they might be high-risk, then I can only encourage you, with your best interests in mind, to ask your doctor about getting tested. Equip yourself with knowledge and choices.
Written by Naomi.
For more on her journey with BRCA 2, follow her on instagram @eatsleepgrieverepeat
If you have any questions or concerns about the BRCA gene and cancer please get in touch with us to speak with one of our qualified specialist nurses by calling 01702 343288 or click the ‘Book An Appointment’ button at the top of the page for an online, phone or in-person appointment at our Leigh-on-Sea centre.