Maria D. Angel, Columbus, Ohio
In 2010,I learned of my BRCA2 mutation stemming from my paternal grandmother's side of the family.I decided to puruse a double mastectomy in July 2011
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I am 42 years old and the first one in my family to be diagnosed with the BRCA mutation. My paternal grandmother died from complications of breast cancer(as did her mother and grandmother) and my paternal aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006 and fought courageously until she died in 2009. My aunt was like a substitute mother for me and an important part of my life. She mentioned shortly after her diagnosis that the family should be tested for the genetic BRCA mutation. It wasn't until after my aunt passed away, that I felt her and my grandmother's spirit somehow guiding me toward testing. As it turns out, was a very good thing. Because of my BRCA2 diagnosis, my life was forever changed, but I realized I now had the opportunity to save my life and the possible lives of future family members.
The hardest part of my journey
While the initial surgery decreased my risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 90 to 95 percent, the next set of trials and misfortunes began. Because of post-surgical infections and subsequent complications, I have endured a total of six additional surgeries to help with my breast reconstruction. There are a few additional minor procedures to be completed, but the next step is to address the additional set of surgeries needed to reduce my ovarian cancer risk. All my surgeries, the countless appointments with specialists, surgeons and oncologists and the emotional and physical wounds that have been left behind have been the hardest part of my journey. It has been difficult, but I always try and remember....I have my health, I am strong, and I am a previvor!
If I could do it over again
Through each and everyone of my challenges, one continuing thought remains. It is the memory of watching my grandmother and aunt fight with courage and determination to overcome, but lose their battles with breast and ovarian cancer. Despite my hardships and many setbacks, I realize that having the option to pre-survive my risk of getting cancer makes me very fortunate. I have a choice to live for those who matter most - my family, husband, two sons, many friends and colleagues. We may not always know if we are making the right decisions, but information can be gathered and informed decisions can be made. We can and we will previve our cancer risk!
My participation with FORCE
Finding FORCE has given me a great amount of comfort and sense of well-being. To be around others who have have faced the same decisions, experienced similiar set-backs is both comforting and something I do not take for granted. I am so thankful to have this group in my life as no one could completely ever understand the emotions of a BRCA diagnosis and the decisions needed to be made like someone who has been through it as well.
I am so grateful for my extraordinary team of doctors at The Ohio State University Medical Center who have supported me through my decision-making process. I give special thanks to Dr. Doreen Agnese, Dr. Michael Blumenfeld and last but not least, my plastic surgeon, Dr. Anne Taylor whose tenacity and support in working with me through my numerous reconstruction procedures has been amazing. I will be forever grateful. Also, Jennifer Dush, CNP was instrumental in keeping my emotions under control when needed and gave me continued encouragement and guidance throughout every obstacle. It is because of these remarkable individuals and also my family and many friends that I have overcome many challenges and made many difficult decisions. I am grateful for their support and ultimately, most grateful to be previving cancer!
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