Today's story comes from Melissa Cornelius of Magnum, Oklahoma. She was 36 when she learned that she carried the BRCA2 gene mutation.
Describe your BRCA journey in one sentence: This past year has been a world of unknown paths; never knowing what tomorrow will bring.
What made you decide to get tested for the BRCA gene mutation? My mother was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in 2011 at the age of 52, and my Aunt was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer the following year. My mother and aunt were tested in 2013 for the mutation. Both tested positive and pushed for me to get tested. Mom went as far as having her doctor call me from New Mexico to advise me in getting tested. I put it off till last summer and found out on July 21st that I was positive.
Are you BRCA1 or BRCA2 positive? BRCA2
What did you think/feel when you discovered you were BRCA positive? How did it affect those around you? Shocked. Never did I think I would be positive. I was clueless about the mutation until I started doing my research. I then decided with the help of my oldest children and my fiance to have the surgeries immediately. I have seven beautiful children all range in ages from 4-20. Needless to say, it has affected everyone close to me. My oldest daughter will be 18 in December and is already planning to get tested. Some of my cousins have been tested since my diagnosis, and only one has tested positive. Everyone in our family is more aware of our bodies. Which is good.
What surgical procedures (if any) have you undergone? If you haven’t had any surgeries, please share why you’ve made these choices. I had BSO (Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy is a procedure that removes both ovaries and Fallopian tubes) and total hysterectomy on Sept 29, 2014, with no hesitation and no complications. My doctor said it was probably the best decision I had ever made. After a short fight with my insurance company, I had my PBM (bilateral prophylactic mastectomy) on Jan 20, 2015, also with no complications. I am still with expanders until August 12, 2015; then I will have my exchange surgery.
How has your BRCA gene mutation changed your life? I find myself defending myself always with strangers and people in my tiny town. I find myself always telling people that if the other option was deadly cancer, why wouldn't I have the surgeries. I have become more aware of my body and more aware of my health and my children.
If you could share any tip of advice with women who have just learned they have the BRCA gene mutation, what would it be? Use this time and this information as a form of empowerment. Knowledge is power! My mother and my aunt didn't have this knowledge ahead of time. Cancer is still fighting its way into my family, but Cancer Will Not Win and Can Not Win!
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