As part of our October breast cancer awareness blog series, we will be publishing stories from our clients and who are (or have been) faced with a breast cancer diagnosis.
This blog is written by client Beth Kuhn. Beth had a higher than normal risk for developing breast cancer because of her family history. She took steps to be proactive in her health and is so thankful for it.
After watching my mom and aunt battle breast cancer in both breast- which included chemotherapy, radiation, mastectomies, and all the emotional and physical trauma that accompanies it – I learned that I carry the BRCA2 gene mutation. It apparently runs in our family. I was told that my inherited gene mutation gave me up to an 87% chance of having breast cancer in my lifetime and up to a 17% chance of having ovarian cancer. Receiving this news felt like a curse! I was angry! After careful consideration I reluctantly decided to have a preventative bilateral mastectomy to reduce my cancer risk. It’s a tough decision to remove healthy breasts. At age 43 I had felt invincible when it comes to my health, partly due to naivety, and partly due to my lifestyle of clean eating and regular, vigorous exercise. I was terrified I might be having this surgery unnecessarily.
After the double mastectomy my pathology report revealed a 0.9 cm cancerous tumor in the breast tissue. Due to my high breast density this tumor was not picked up in the mammogram that I had just two weeks prior to surgery! I am lucky and super grateful to have had the gift of knowledge that my mom and aunt did not have. In my case, the breast cancer was caught early, so there was no chemo or radiation needed. I dodged a bullet!
I am grateful for BCRC for providing support and encouragement while I was in the decision making stage of “what to do with this knowledge”. BCRC also provided me with post-surgical garments that were wonderfully useful during recovery. FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) provided me with education that helped me navigate my options upon learning that I inherited the BRCA gene mutation. Through FORCE, I met wonderful women that had “been there” (previvors) who helped me work through my anger about inheriting this gene mutation and eventually helped me see this information as a “gift”. My mother and aunt did not have the same opportunity to prevent their cancer.
My family is not out of the woods yet, but we have certainly been empowered. My sons have a 50/50 chance of inheriting this gene mutation and passing it on to their children. Since my family has discovered that we are “mutants” (smile), we have identified seven BRCA2+ family members, and there are more (mostly men and children) that may choose to be tested at some point. Genetic testing may not be for everyone, but in the case of my family it has given us a unique opportunity to change our future. It is helpful to talk with your physician or a genetic counselor to see if genetic testing may be appropriate for you. Knowledge is power.
The BCRC thanks Beth for sharing her story and her experience. For information regarding hereditary cancer, please visit FORCE and talk to your medical team.
If you or someone you know is facing breast cancer and could use our support, please visit our website or call our helpline at 512-524-2560.
Consider making a donation to BCRC this October and give the gift that makes a real difference for the women in Central Texas facing breast cancer right NOW. Visit bcrc.org to learn more about how we can help, or click here if you wish to give back today.