Today’s post is more serious than the others. As most of you know, the motivation behind this blog is my amazing mom and being able to connect with others who may be going through a similar situation. In addition to this, my goal is to encourage everyone to focus on the positive things in life. We all encounter difficult times throughout our lives and, although we may not want to, we have to find ways to accept them. I have SO much to be thankful and grateful for in my life and I owe a lot of it to my mom.
So, let’s get to it. As many of you know, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in February of this year. Since, she has undergone major debulking surgery, recovery, and chemo. Since her last chemo session late spring, she had an amazing and healthy 4 months chemo free AND at her last oncologist appointment, last month, we found out that her cancer is currently dormant. I’m not religious but I thank whatever power is out there watching over her and our family! Her CA125 cancer markers (the marker used to measure ovarian cancer) haven’t increased and remain well under the normal range. This news couldn’t have been better. I can’t describe how it feels to wait for these appointments. Not knowing what the results will be. The anxiety I feel waiting for the news can be awful but we are SO grateful that the news was positive and that her body and cancer responded well to the chemo they gave her 🙂 !!!
When mom was diagnosed in February, we were told that because she had had breast cancer 10 years ago and now ovarian cancer that she could be tested for the BRCA genetic mutation if she wished and free of charge. Testing for this is very expensive therefore it isn’t available to everyone, especially since only 1.2 percent of Canadian women are at risk of getting ovarian cancer and an even smaller percentage of those carry a BRCA genetic mutations.
Do you know what this genetic mutation is? If not, I will explain but maybe you will remember the (what some call) radical surgery Angelina Jolie had after finding out that her mom, who passed away from ovarian cancer, carried this genetic mutation. Angelina decided to have a double mastectomy in response to finding out that her mom carried the BRCA 1 gene. Why, you may ask, well because those who do carry a BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutation have an increased risk of getting both breast and ovarian cancer.
Being the mother of two daughters, my mom decided to follow-through with the genetic testing. We were told that it would take 3 months but it ended up being close to 6. Last Friday, we had her follow-up appointment. I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I was for this appointment. I knew that there was a small chance that she would carry it and, that if that was the case, my sister and I would have some decisions to make but it wasn’t until her genetics doctor actually said the words “you ARE BRCA2 positive” that everything really hit me. I knew this was a real possibility but until it was actually confirmed, I guess I was hoping otherwise. I understandably burst into tears. Mom, however, felt a sense of relief. Now, she knew that her girls would be tested annually (MRI and mammogram) and that we would be provided with surgical options if we wanted to embark on those journeys. She is the most selfless person I know. Always thinking about us before herself.
What do these results mean for mom:
- The not so great news is that she is 85% likely to have breast cancer. The good news is that now that they know this, they will continue to monitor her annually which is relieving.
- Other good news is that because she has a BRCA 2 genetic mutation, they are able to offer her additional treatments for her cancer if it awakens. This news couldn’t have made us happier :).
- Lastly, the results gave mom a sense of relief knowing that she didn’t just have bad luck. Rather, her cancers were/are the result of a genetic mutation.
What do these results mean for my sister and I:
Well, mom’s results mean that we have a 50% chance of carrying the BRCA2 genetic mutation. As a result, we have the choice of being tested ourselves, free of charge. To some, I’m sure that this would be a difficult decision. For myself, it’s a no brainer since messing with ovarian cancer is no joke. I’ve decided to go ahead with the testing, which involves simple blood work, and it will take between 1-2 months for my results.
So what does it mean if the results come back positive for my sister or I? Well, it means that we will have a 50-85% chance of having breast cancer and 10-30% chance of getting ovarian cancer (compared to the general population’s percentage which is 1.2%). Also, we will have the choice of undergoing a double mastectomy and partial or total hysterectomy now or just prior to menopause (which is what is recommended).
Although scary, all of the above is positive news for my sister and I. It means that we will have options and I’m so thankful for that and being able to tackle this decision well informed. I, like Angelina, am approaching this more aggressively. If my results come back positive, I am choosing to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction as soon as possible and a hysterectomy well before menopause. Saying I was going to do this, prior to mom’s results, was one thing, but knowing that this may be a real possibility now makes everything more real. But, if my mom was able to fight and beat breast cancer in 2006 and undergo everything she encountered this year, then I can do this. I owe it to myself and my children who will also have a 50% chance of carrying this genetic mutation if I do. Even our son.
Moving forward, I will keep you guys posted on the results and what happens next. For those of you who out there who are living through a similar situation, know that you are not alone. That you are strong and loved and that no matter what we will get through this. Life is a gift and sometimes we are dealt unexpected cards but we have to be grateful for all that is good in life and enjoy every moment to the fullest.
Today, and every day I am grateful for my amazing life. For my husband and kids. My sister, friends and my mom who made the person that I am today.
What are you grateful for? 🙂
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
Sending positive energy and love out to everyone xox