Elise Worthington is 25.
She’s a smart, beautiful woman who spends her days reporting other people’s stories as a TV and radio journalist for the ABC.
But this week, she told a personal story about a decision that she calls the “hardest and most difficult” of her life.
Last year, Elise learned her mother carries the BRCA1 gene mutation, which dramatically increases her risk of both breast and ovarian cancer — and that terrible news was made even more tragic when, six months ago, Elise learned she also carried the hereditary defect.
Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are hereditary, and each child of a parent who carries the mutation has a 50 per cent chance of developing one of these cancers.
Elise’s grandmother died from breast cancer, and her great-grandmother also had the disease.
So this year, Elise had a near-impossible choice to make: live with the fear of cancer, or have preventative surgery to remove both her breasts.
In a series of videos diaries shown on 7:30 Worthington wrestled with the choice — made all the more harrowing against the backdrop of her own mother, Sylvia’s, struggle with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer. Sylvia’s cancer returned while the story was being filmed, and the family doesn’t know how long Sylvia has left – doctors say one year, maybe two.
But, as Elise declared on 7:30 — wrapped in a dressing gown and wiping tears from her eyes — she is determined to “help (Sylvia) get through it, and I’m going to get through it.”
“And she’s going to be the last woman in my family to get sick from this gene, and I’m going to be fine,” she added.
In another touching video diary entry just before the operation, Elise says she’s “feeling scared and looking forward to it being over and done with” — but admits her decision has been a “struggle”.
“I think the reason that I wanted to share this is that if I’d seen something like this with my mum then maybe we would have spoken about our family history more and maybe she would have been tested and then maybe she wouldn’t be in the situation that she’s in now,” she continued.
“So, you know, if there’s one person that goes and talks to another member of their family or their GP then maybe me crying in my pyjamas on national television would have been worth it.”
On Tuesday, brave Elise had a double mastectomy.
After the procedure, she tweeted: “Feeling hurty but almost human again. Just like my chest has been run over by a truck. Thanks for all the lovely messages.”
We applaud Worthington for taking this brave, monumental step to avoid that risk — and for sharing her journey with Australia in a bid to raise awareness of the devastating disease.