“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
“Knowing my risk has provided a sense of empowerment in an otherwise very fearful situation.”
Courtesy Theresa Johnson of Johnson Photography “At 53, I had just been diagnosed with my second breast cancer in three years and felt totally out of control. So, when I discovered that I was BRCA2 positive I felt relieved, surprised, and scared. Why relief? Because now I knew why my cancer was returning so soon. It cemented my need for surgery and follow-up treatments. The most surprising thing is that I have no family history of breast cancer and am not Jewish, but I have the Ashkenazi founder mutation.” —Amanda Miller
Curious about the habits that can help prevent breast cancer?