Rachelle and Corinne Gebert are sisters. They both have the BRCA2 gene. But only one of them has the chance to stop the disease before it starts.
Today, they’re wearing pink lipstick to encourage families like theirs to have the conversation about family health history they wished they had had earlier.
The Melbourne sisters first discovered they carry the BRCA2 gene mutation, which puts them at a high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer after finding the gene was prevalent on their father’s side.
“I never met my paternal grandmother, but I knew she died of Breast Cancer at 40 years old,” Corinne says.
“But I thought my risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer was low as the advice I was given was ‘don’t worry about it, it’s on your dad’s side and it doesn’t get passed down via males’.”
For Rachelle, having a preventative bilateral mastectomy wasn’t a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. However, almost 12 months after receiving the BRCA2 diagnosis, a mammogram, and CT and bone scans confirmed the mother-of-two had grade three breast cancer, which has since spread beyond her breast and lymph nodes and into her bones.
Now classified as metastatic – advanced stage four – there is no cure for Rachelle.
“It turned my world upside down, but I guess at the same time, why we’re here is that I want my sister to have the preventative surgery,” she tells Mamamia.
"I don't want her to be in my position. I was doing what I could and I still got cancer. I didn't catch it early. I would just give anything to have the preventative surgery."
For the Geberts, sadly it took Rachelle's diagnosis to realise just how important taking preventative action is for those with a high risk of developing cancer. Their message, put simply:
Don't wait. Know your risk. Change your future.
"When my sister was diagnosed with cancer and it had spread so quickly, the decision to have the preventative surgery, it just went out the window. It was, I need to have this surgery," Corinne says.
"This is happening to our family now, I have just as much chance as she had to get breast cancer."
"Have a conversation with your family so you're all aware of your breast and ovarian cancer risk, people shouldn't have to be afraid to talk about this with their loved ones because it will help," Rachelle explains.
"I know my case, I'm really unlucky but I just want other people to be aware that you've got options and that this doesn't have to be your fate."
Friday September 22 is Pink Hope's Bright Pink Lipstick Day. Pink Hope is a preventative health organisation working to ensure every individual can assess, manage and reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, providing every family the support they need.
By urging women to put on a slick of bright pink lipstick, Pink Hope encourage everyone to have a conversation with their family about their health history and empower each other to take control of their breast and ovarian cancer risk.
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