Friday, 21 November 2008

1. Introducing me

I'm a woman who has lived with a nagging question in her head for 20 years. At only 35 years old that’s a lot of worry. There's been a question that persistently knocked on the door of my rational brain, telling me to pursue the answer. What is the question?

Is there hereditary cancer in my family?

At the age of 16 I vividly remember sitting in front of my GP raising my concerns of the very evident history of breast cancer in my family (7 women that I can name). I remember he almost laughed at me when I suggested it might be hereditary and told me that the chances of me having genetic cancer were so small I shouldn't worry about it. I was there to go on the pill and I knew even then that the pill increased the chances of breast cancer and I was concerned. Granted, in 1989 there was little information available about genetic cancer but I knew it was still possible - so many woman had been through or died from breast cancer in my family, it just couldn't be a 'coincidence'.

So here I am today, in the knowledge that I have the BRCA1 gene; the breast and ovarian cancer gene. It took me 13 years to get into the 'cancer care system' of the NHS. Initially they told me I was too young and couldn't be screened until I was at least 30. At 27 I found a lump and that made them sit up and take notice. Thankfully it was benign. It’s taken a further 9 years to go through screening, counselling, appointments, my mother's DNA testing, my mother's results, my blood samples and genetic testing to find out my own results.

In August this year, I found out. I sat next to my husband Chris in the MacMillan cancer unit, Derriford Hospital and the lady told me that she was sorry to say that the results were positive for BRCA1. I didn't flinch. I felt relief, my gut instinct has been right all this time. I was probably relieved because all the energy I had wasted worrying and planning and deciding 'just in case' hadn't been in vain after all. I think I would have fallen off my chair or burst into hysterical tears if she'd have said that I DIDN'T have the gene.

And now? Now I have choices to make.


Cathryn {Pencil Stitches} said...

Hi, I just stumbled across your blog, as on tuesday I found out u have the brca2 gene. I found out at derrière to, and like you,I would of been more shocked if I didn't have it! Looking forward to reading your blog!