Living with Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Cynthia Bailey, MD|September 13, 2016

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The last week of September is appropriately Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Month for those of us with one of ‘the genes’ that marks our life story and gives us the fear of an early expiration date.

I carry the BRCA1 gene for breast and ovarian cancer. I had breast cancer in 2013, which led to a year of treatment including chemotherapy and a lot of surgeries. You can read more about my story in Breast Cancer BRCA Update from Dr. Bailey.  Now it’s the 5 year waiting game to see if my treatments stick or if I’m going to relive the despair, grief, hope, and fear of a ‘short expiration date’ that comes with relapsed cancer. 

Until I was diagnosed with cancer I did not know that I had the BRCA gene. This gene gives an almost guaranteed risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer for women. It turns out my maternal grandmother likely died of ovarian cancer, and not the colon cancer that was diagnosed back then. My mom also got breast cancer – twice. Still, the gene discovery came with my cancer and not before. As you may imagine, I have a lot of mixed feelings about being the one that had to tell my family that we carry this gene.

One Way - A Journey To This Moment

This is where Michelle Grinsel enters the picture - she recently made and released the powerful video below, One Way – A Journey To This Moment, and she shares many of the same feelings that I had. In this powerful 30 minute video you will have a chance to glimpse how she turned the bad news and uncertainty of her survival into the ability to cherish each moment. I know this path well. When I watched Michelle sitting with her husband, experiencing one of those huge telephone calls from her doctor to tell her that she qualified to get the new PARP drug, I know the look and tears that are caught by the camera. I can still barely type this without feeling them well up. Michelle’s video haunts me as I wait for my 5 year mark to finish. Be sure to see Michelle's powerful blog as well.

This is the story of anyone facing a ‘shortened expiration date’; living with the knowledge that your clock may go off any day, signaling the potential end of your life. You don’t have to have cancer to find this inspiring. In reality we will all face death and other major calamities some day. Nevertheless, being given a grave prognosis such as the BRCA gene is a watershed moment. Like Michelle, I saw only One Way forward - gratitude for each moment. Her story is eloquently captured in her video, and I encourage you to watch it. 

One Way - A Journey to this Moment Full Length from Todd Hannigan on Vimeo.

We Are Raising Funds to Fight Breast Cancer - Join Us!

The great news is that you can join me and my team as we support the fight against these cancers and celebrate scientific advancements. Every year since 2013 we have raised funds to fight these cancers. This year we are fundraising for the American Cancer Society through the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on October 8th. I invite you to join us!

Join us by donating OR walking with our team and fundraising!

Help us reach our goal of raising $5000 - we are on our way there, but we need everyone's support.

I wish I had known I had BRCA before cancer struck because there are choices I could have made to lower my risk of getting cancer. People who make those choices are called ‘previvors’. Most BRCA carriers don’t know that they carry this notorious gene mutation for cancer...If you or a loved one know that you carry this gene, please know that there are actionable steps you can take to previve your high risk of cancer.  Learn more about the BRCA gene in The BRCA Genes and Breast Cancer: Facts to Help Save Lives.  

And help us support cancer treatment and research for everyone this October.

   Are you or someone you love facing cancer? We want to hear from you.  Tweet, Pin, or Facebook your story to us. We'll also be using social media to keep you up to date with our fundraising progress. And we may even have contests for those pledging....so join the conversation and stay connected!
 

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