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This charity supports women at high risk breast and ovarian cancer. Women like me.

Image from the Run for Hope Melbourne Facebook page.

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.

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I am now proudly an Ambassador for Pink Hope and each year I organise the Run for Hope – Melbourne fundraiser. Not only raising community awareness of hereditary cancer, but money raised at the event will enable Pink Hope to continue its current programs which include information kits for at-risk women, online support groups and forums and running awareness campaigns. Cancer is tough and in my case, finding out I had a high risk of it returning was quite difficult.  Just as Pink Hope helped me, I am passionate about helping other women so they never feel alone.

The funds raised will also help Pink Hope to one day be in a position to employ a medical and healthcare team dedicated to ensuring high risk women can make informed decisions about their health. Access to a healthcare team will allow women to make potentially life saving decisions sooner and give them the tools to educate and assist their children should they face the same genetic risk.

By supporting Run for Hope you could be helping a woman you know – perhaps a family member – receive the support and information she needs to make informed decisions about her health. Women with a family history of cancer are often frightened and confused and don’t know where to turn to for help. Pink Hope is the only charity dedicated to helping women and their families be aware of all surveillance options, risk reducing medication, to navigate the complex world of gene testing, and, in some cases, live-saving surgical procedures. Pink Hope also offers friendship and support.

For more information and to register for Run for Hope – Melbourne see their Facebook page.

To learn more about Pink Hope, www.pinkhope.org.au.

A video that Sarah Powell’s husband and friends made for her 30th birthday, while she was having chemo. 

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