#dosomethingyummy – Am I a Survivor? 23

I have a faulty gene, technically they call it a spelling mistake in the DNA and in mine and my family’s case the issue is with the BRCA 1 gene, which means that due to my family history I had an 80% lifetime risk of breast cancer and a 60% lifetime risk of ovarian cancer. It also means that I am more susceptible to a number of other cancers too. Now to put this in to perspective, genetic breast cancer accounts for approximately 5% of the cases of breast cancer, so it is a relatively small amount and pretty unusually to get the positive result for the spelling mistake.

The reason I came to find out was down to my wonderful Aunt (my mums youngest sister), she was diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer, primary peritoneal cancer and during her treatment she was tested for a genetic spelling mistake, mainly due to my other Aunt dying from cancer and the history of cancer on my maternal side of the family. We all concentrated on my Aunts recovery and through nothing of the results not coming back, so that when they did informing her of the genetic issues we were all floored. Initially the NHS offered a genetic test to my Aunts remaining siblings, her daughters and my deceased Aunts children. My mum chose to have the test, even though she is the oldest in the family. She was diagnosed as carrying the spelling mistake too, which meant that the test was opened up to me and my brother.

March 09 after my double mastectomy operation (still with drains in)

MadDad and I received counselling from Macmillan even before we made the decision whether or not to have the test. We were really lucky in the care we received and we were also both of the same opinion, that finding out if I carried the spelling mistake would enable us to take proactive actions against any cancers. In all honesty I thought that I would be fine and to find out otherwise was a real punch in the solar plexus, but we decided that we would research all the options open to me and started meeting with consultants, cancer survivors, woman who had undergone mastectomies, nurses and anyone we could really. I had a mammogram, an MRI, a colonoscopy, a gasgoscopy and an ultrasound before we had come to any conclusion about what we would do.

Initially I decided to have a hystoretomy. There were distinct advantages to having this operation prior to turning 35, both for the reduction in risk of ovarian cancer and also the fact that the changes in my hormones due to the operation would also reduce the breast cancer risk marginally. I underwent this initially operation in July 2008 when Maxi was 3 and Mini was 2. We both yearned for a larger family but decided on balance that it would be better to concentrate on the two we have rather than risk having anymore and subsequently developing ovarian cancer, especially as it is very hard to diagnose.  It was a really easy recovery and I was very lucky indeed.

We were also discussing the possibility of breast cancer and also the diagnosis of this, which would hampered by the fact that I was a larger breasted lady (38GG), so after much consideration, deliberation and after taking as much advise as we could that I would have a bi-lateral prophylactic mastectomy with an immediate reconstruction. I also decided that initially I would have a reconstruction with implants, as this meant the recovery should be quicker and less traumatic for us as a family as a whole.

Unfortunately this surgery was not easy in any way shape or form and although the initial operation went well, my body had a reaction to the implants and they had to be removed and then I developed a major infection and nearly died due to Sepsis. 3 years later, I am just getting used to the fact that I am covered in scars and still do not have any breasts.

Knowing that I have this spelling mistake, also leaves me with the knowledge that I may have passed this “bad blood” on to my two wonderful boys. They will both be entitled to the genetic test at 18 should they wish and I will stand by whatever decision they make, but I also live in the hope that as they can now detect which gene the spelling mistake is in, that they make even be able to correct it by the time the boys are older. After seeing what people with cancer go through, the chemo, the radiotherapy, the long term drugs to hopefully prevent the cancer returning, we are in no doubt that we made the correct choice for our family. Yes what we have been through has been traumatic for the minimads, but the possibility of putting them through cancer and its treatment makes me feel physically sick. In doing what I have, I have not wiped out my all my changes of developing cancer, but I have reduced the lifetime possibility drastically. I understand that not everyone would have done what I did, but it was the right decision for me, I could not live year at a time just waiting for the cancer to show itself. I was lucky in that I could take preventative measures, which is not always possible.

Does this make me a survivor?  I will leave that decision to you.

This post was written to  promote and raise awareness of the CLIC Sargent Yummy Mummy Week – 10th to 18th March 2012 after being tagged by All baby Advise

23 thoughts on “#dosomethingyummy – Am I a Survivor?

  • Mirka Moore

    Absolutely yes, it must have been a diffilcult decision, but I think I would do the same. Fingers crossed for the boys not to have the bad genes xxx

  • SAHMlovingit

    It makes you one hell of a brave woman Jen.

    As someone who’s seen my Mum battle breast cancer twice (resulting in a mastectomy each time) then I can honestly say that I think you made the right choice for your family too.

    What an incredible story x

  • Julie

    I think you are definitely a survivor! I’ve had a couple of breast scares and resulting scans (I have very lumpy breasts, inherited from my mum, thanks mum!) and know just how scary it is to be faced with the prospect of cancer – I have always felt I’d go for a mastectomy if there was any problem, and probably a double one while I was at it just to reduce any future risk…….but it is a lot easier to say than to do. Juliex

  • Actually Mummy...

    Well I think surviving all that invasive medical treatment and a shocking diagnosis makes you pretty special! We are so lucky to have such good medical knowledge in this day and age.

  • Mama Syder

    What an incredible story…you are so brave. I’m going through a bit of a scare myself at the moment, I’m waiting on a scan. Because my Mum died at a young age from endo cancer the professionals are not taking any chances with me which I’m so relieved about. I’m terrified though. If I was offered those operations instead of getting cancer I’d jump on it. I actually said to hubby only yesterday if they offer me a hysterectomy I’m taking it.

    Still a terrifying situation, You must be such a strong woman x

  • Midlife Singlemum

    You made a very brave decision but I think you were 100% right to give your family the best possible chance of having you around for the next 50 years. I applaud your choice. xxx

  • northernmum

    to me it makes you more fecking wonderful than I thought you were before.

    bloody hell Jen, people shouldnt have to face this much crap in their life

    You are more than a survivor x

  • Super Amazing Mum

    not only are you a survivor you are an absolutely wonderful person…

    You are so brave to have done that but given your family history, I can see why, I would have done exactly the same thing.


  • StephsTwoGirls

    wow, of course a survivor, so brave. It must have all been (and still be) very exhausting and frightening for you. Of course you’re still smiling, so positive which is lovely x

  • Mum2Four

    You are not just a survivor you are also amazing & an inspiration!

    I’m due to have mammograms from next year as my Mum had breast cancer, I worry a lot that I will get it so always make sure I check myself regularly.

    Like you I’m certain I’d take preventative measures too.

    Thanks for this post.

  • Susan Mann

    Yes it does, you are such a brave and amazing person and I am so pleased to have met you. That must have been such a difficult decision to make, one that is tough as a woman but even harder as a mother. I would have made the same decision I am sure in your case. Having lost my dad to cancer, I would want to limit my risks too. Hugs and you are so brave for sharing. Most definitely a survivor x

  • Nickie

    How can you even ask that question, Jen – you’re a superstar survivor!!

    Thank you for writing this and linking up for the final week of the #dosomethingyummy prompts and helping to raise awareness.

  • TheBoyandMe

    Scrolling down to this comment box, I’ve just found myself a little overcome. You are one of the bravest women I’ve ever met (even if it was for only ten mins at the Tots Christmas Party). To make those decisions in order to try and prevent cancer is astounding and takes realy courage. I knew you’d had a mastectomy, but not the circumstances. Thank you for taking the time to share your story, and the information about the gene.

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