By SARAH POWELL
Like all parents, I worry about all the usual things – will my children have lifelong friends, will they meet their soulmates, will they have rewarding careers? But unlike most parents, I wonder if I have passed on to them the gene fault that was passed to me by my father; a gene fault that has been carried through the generations and caused me to get breast cancer when I was only 29 years old.
Completely unaware that I carried the gene fault, called BRCA1, I was on holiday in Thailand when I found a small lump in my breast. It turned out to be a small tumour, which was removed without the need for a mastectomy. I underwent months of chemo and radiotherapy, which was difficult, but I coped quite well. Only four weeks after completing treatment – much to my husband’s and my surprise – I fell pregnant with my daughter, Mikayla.
When Mikayla was only six months old I discovered that I, just like Angelina Jolie, carried the BRCA1 gene fault which has a 50% chance of being passed from one generation to the next and causes breast and ovarian cancer at increasingly earlier ages. Carrying the gene fault means I have a 60% chance of getting breast cancer again. It also means my daughter may carry the gene, as may her brother, but we won’t know until they turn 18 and can have a genetic test.
During this time I felt lost, alone and frightened; the uncertainty of not knowing if or when I might get cancer again, the fear that I had passed this gene fault onto my children. But then I found Pink Hope – a charity that informs, inspires and supports women at high risk breast and ovarian cancer. Women like me.
Through Pink Hope I found information and support which helped me make difficult choices to reduce my chances of getting cancer again; including undergoing a preventative double mastectomy in 2010 and having my fallopian tubes removed in 2013. In total seven surgeries in the last seven years.