Beverly McKee MSW, LCSW

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ANGELINA JOLIE, BRCA MUTATIONS AND ME

 

Angelina Jolie is back in the headlines with her latest health decision to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes after a cancer scare. Suddenly everyone is once again discussing the breast cancer gene mutation, BRCA1 for Angelina (BRCA2 for me).  It brings to light the fact that women can arm themselves with education regarding proactive decisions, thereby lowering their risk of developing cancer.  

Angelina's decisions about her prophylactic (preventative) surgeries have been met with much controversy but when the cancer cards are NOT in your favor, everything is cast in a new light.

How many of us play the lottery?   Especially when the jackpot reaches the multi-million dollar mark?  Did you know that your chance of winning the Powerball is one in 175 million?  

And yet we still play...

powerball

"What if you have a one in four chance of winning the lottery? 
Would you buy a ticket?
Those were my odds of developing ovarian cancer."

The number was 27% to be exact.  You see my journey through breast cancer came with an all expense paid trip to world of BRAC testing.  It was a whole new world for me.  I dodged the bullet with BRAC1 mutation but I wasn’t so lucky with BRAC2.

 
bev and surgery nurse ShellyAccording to cancer.gov, “BRAC1 and BRAC2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins.  These proteins help repair damaged DNA, and therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material.  When either of these genes is mutated, DNA damage may not be repaired properly.  As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.”  
In my case, my mutated BRAC2 gene put me at an 84% chance of developing breast cancer (seems about right since I was diagnosed with two different types of breast cancer in both breasts) and a 27% chance of developing ovarian cancer.  
This brings me back to my prophylactic hysterectomy, which went smoothly back in the fall of 2013.  With the odds leaning in favor of developing ovarian cancer and the fact that my breast cancer fed on estrogen, my ovaries had become my enemy.  Just as I was relieved to be rid of my cancerous breast tissue, I had no qualms about saying goodbye to the ticking time bomb inside of my body.
 
 I'm not suggesting that the decision to have a hysterectomy (or an oophorectomy in Angelina's case) should be taken lightly. Early menopause, health risks, physical and emotional changes...the side effects are very real and life changing.  It’s a very personal decision which must be weighed out carefully for every woman, along with her doctor.
I applaud Angelina Jolie for shedding light on this subject.  Knowledge is power.  If one woman talks to her doctor about her risks and ultimately avoids a cancer diagnosis, then telling our stories are worth the vulnerability that comes with sharing a personal health issue.  Women need to know that they are not alone in this difficult journey.
 
 
party invite 2052My HOPE is that my decisions will put the odds in my favor of dancing in the sand far in the future.  At my "40 Year Survivor Celebration".  It's set for October 17, 2052 on the beach of Sanibel 
Island, Florida!  
Forty years from the date of my diagnosis!Angelina Jolie, please consider this your official invitation to my party of a lifetime.  Feel free to bring Brad and the kids! 
 
What about you?  Did your doctor recommend genetic testing?  Did you test positive for the BRCA gene mutation?  Did you take preventative measures?  Regardless of your decision, please know that you are not alone in your journey.  Let's chat in the comments below!
 
 
© Copyright 2014-2016  Beverly McKee, MSW, LCSW.   All Rights Reserved.

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