I thought surgery was going to prevent me from getting breast cancer... Turns out, I started the consultation process just in time.
My grandad died of breast cancer when he was just 58. Now, first things first, breast cancer is much less common in men than it is women. In fact, it's around 85 times less common in men than it is in women. So when my grandad was told he had breast cancer back in the 1980's he was tested for the BRCA2 gene mutation. The BRCA2 gene mutation is hereditary, and increases the carriers risks of developing breast cancer to around 80% (in comparison, non-BRCA mutation carriers lifetime risk is around 12%.)
Once we knew he had the BRCA2 gene mutation, the whole family were monitored by the genetic team at Nottingham City Hospital's Breast Institute. We knew that my mum and her siblings all had a 50:50 chance of inheriting the gene fault. All 3 of them inherited it! And, would you believe it, so has every single person in my grandads family tree to date. Male and female! I mean... Is it just me or is that freakishly unfortunate?..... 50:50 chance? Not in our case!
Thankfully, not everyone who inherits the BRCA2 gene fault will go on to develop cancer, and preventative surgery reduces the risk even further.
I remember when the nurse came in to tell me that I’d tested positive for BRCA2. I was 29 years old and pregnant with my first child. The first thing to come out of my mouth was, "Yep, I know,” because, well I did. My intuition, coupled with the super strong family history, all but assured me this would be the case. I didn't even need to think about my options at this point, I already knew I wanted to have preventative surgery, along with a breast reduction to my then large and rather disproportionate 32G breasts. But I was pregnant and so I knew I had to wait.
My son, Rayan was born in August 2012 and I breast fed him for around 6 months, before booking my preventive surgery. I'd been preparing for my surgery emotionally and physically for a few months and was in many ways looking forward to a new improved figure with neater curves. I had to go for several standard routine tests and scans before the surgery and thats when I found out... I had in fact. Already got. Breast. Cancer!!!!! WTF??? I was 30. I had a new baby! I had so much to live for. So many plans for my future. I felt way too young! I didn't have time to process any negative thoughts, or think about the "what if's", I just knew that I wanted to get whatever procedures needed to be done, DONE! and quick. Like yesterday. And so thats exactly what happened. Simple as that.
The following weeks and months were a bit of a blur. The doctors originally diagnosed DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) in my right breast. (DCIS is basically the earliest possible form of breast cancer, it needs to be treated but is not life threatening). However they then discovered there was a stage II cancer which they explained was contained or encapsulated - so still not too worrying and easily removed. I had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer in my right breast, at the same time as a double breast reduction and repositioning of my nipples. I needed to keep my own breast tissue while the scars healed to ensure my nipples had the best chance of surviving the surgery.
After 3 months I was due to go under the knife again for the double mastectomy with implant reconstruction, but in the meantime, the results of the lumpectomy came back and the cancer they thought was encapsulated and not particularly dangerous was in fact on the move, and spreading to my surrounding tissue. I had some lymph nodes from my right armpit removed and tested but luckily there was no sign of any cancer in them, and so I escaped chemotherapy, and I thankfully got the all clear in 2013 after my reconstruction. I was sent away with a 5 year course of Tamoxifen to safeguard me from a potential future return of the disease, and was told I will be under the care of the Nottingham Breast Institute for life.
I am extremely thankful to the breast care nurses and amazing talented surgeons I was blessed to meet and forever grateful that I was so lucky.
#BRCA2 #genetic #mutation #gene #familyhistory #hereditary #Diagnosis #BreastCancer #cancerjourney #DCIS