“Facing my risk of cancer empowered.”
Courtesy Kendra Montanari “My mother had breast cancer twice before age 42, so I began mammograms at an early age. During a routine appointment, my radiologist told me about genetic testing. At 31, I learned that I carried a BRCA1 mutation, which placed me at high risk for breast, ovarian and other cancers. I was terrified. I found an amazing support system at FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) and gained the strength I needed to make some difficult decisions and be proactive about my health. I now have two beautiful daughters and, while I am diligent about my health, I no longer live in fear. There is a lot of misinformation about hereditary cancers, so I encourage anyone concerned about their risk to talk with a nationally certified genetic counselor.” —Kendra Montanari
These are the myths about breast cancer you can safely ignore.
“BRCA is not a death sentence.”
courtesy EPS Communications “When I tested positive for BRCA2, my reaction surprised people. They expected me to cry, yell or be afraid, but I accepted it and moved on. Given my family history—my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great aunt all died of ovarian cancer—I’d assumed since childhood that my own diagnosis was inevitable. I hope other women know that BRCA is not a death sentence. Eight years ago, my mother underwent a hysterectomy that revealed precancerous lesions. Thanks to screenings and modern medicine, she escaped the disease that claimed so many of her relatives. For now, I put my faith in a healthy diet and exercise, regular doctor visits, and advanced cancer research. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t have this same confidence, so my other piece of advice is to get life insurance before getting tested!” —Ali Grise
“I’m excited to beat my odds with new modern medicine and surgery.”
Courtesy Ellie Lange “All my life I knew my paternal grandmother’s history with fatal breast and ovarian cancer. She passed away in her 40s, which resulted in my dad losing his mother at the age of 18. After years of knowing about the genetic mutation test for BRCA mutation, and working at a children’s hospital where I helped raise funds for cancer prevention, I finally decided to ask my doctors about testing. I was at an annual exam and the routine questions about family history came up—something I always dreaded. My doctor told me about the importance of BRCA testing and advised me to follow suit. I walked out of the office with genetic testing pamphlets. After exploring more on my own, I learned that this mutation has a 50/50 chance of being inherited from either paternal or maternal relatives. A few years later, I was at an annual exam at a new practice when the routine family history questions came up. I kept saying ‘Oh, I need to get back to work! Next time!’ but that didn’t work with this doctor. She was smart, patient, and worried about my history. She shared the statistics about testing positive and how, if I did test positive, I could control my future and potentially save my life. I finally caved. Those next few weeks were torture. I was connected with a genetic counselor who screened me and asked extensive family history information. One rainy afternoon my phone rang with the news: I tested positive. I was shocked at first, but, after the news settled in, I started taking preventive measures, including annual MRIs and six-month ovarian screenings. Within the next few years, I will be undergoing other options to prevent cancer and, even though I’m absolutely terrified, I’m also excited to beat my odds with new modern medicine and surgery.” —Ashley Lavore