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BRCA1-and-Done

BRCA1-and-Done

Let’s scream this one from the rooftops, shall we? Be your own advocate! And I mean to the point where your doctors might think you’re a bit crazy. No one else is out there advocating for your health when you wonder what that lump is, or if it’s a good sign that the lump is “movable” (didn’t actually matter), or why your arm is sore (cancer spread to lymph nodes). No one knows your body more than YOU know your body.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 30 years old. At that time, I think the percentage of women whose breast cancer was due to a genetic mutation was around 3%. My aunt is a breast cancer survivor, my cousin is a breast cancer survivor, and my grandma passed from breast cancer when I was a baby. I hear she could light up a room and was full of so much joy. One of those people who just made you better. I am in awe of how far science has come since then. So when I found my lump, my husband was adorably optimistic but again – I just knew my body and knew that the road ahead of me was about to be a bumpy one.

I think back to all the appointments you’re supposed to go to. I told them all that breast cancer was in my family history. I asked about mammograms. They all told me that it probably wasn’t necessary, but if I wanted to get an early mammogram, I could start at age 35. My mom and I have talked about how we look back and just feel we were so naïve. Why didn’t we push harder? Why didn’t I advocate for myself? Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Shortly after my diagnosis I met with a genetic counselor who explained to me how cancer had more or less just been waiting to surface my entire life. My family also went through the genetic testing process. I found out that my brothers did not have the genetic mutation, so to know that their kids would be in the clear, and their kids’ kids are in the clear – I was thrilled. It’s just me and my dad on this one, and we’re okay with that.

But I do struggle because BRCA should be in the spotlight. More people should know about it because more people should be talking about it. I feel like I should be doing something to raise awareness – maybe this blog is that first step. Cancer knows no age. Get physicals. Schedule annual exams. Consider a mammogram before age 40. Push your family history on your doctors until they listen. Be your own advocate.

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