Taylor Treat, West Lafayette, Indiana
I was tested positive for the BRCA1 gene 2 weeks after I turned 18. Now I'm a biochem student at Purdue intending on working with the gene first hand.
I'm more than my risk… some fun facts about myself:
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My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 15. She went though chemo and radiation therapy for many months before receiving the grim news she had tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. Immediately, my mother began researching the gene and contacted her sisters. She was one of 8 children, two were boys. Her oldest sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer back in the 80's and again in the 90's. She lived through both rounds as well as a round of skin cancer before passing away a few years ago to lung cancer (she never smoked). She never had a genetic test, but everyone assumes she had the gene. Another sister survived through leukemia five years ago, she tested negative for the gene. The youngest sister is now a one year survivor of breast cancer and she too has the gene. Three sisters out of six, 50%. The rest of their family tree was looked at and their aunt, their father's sister, was found to have passed away from ovarian cancer. I wasn't surprised when I got my positive results. My mother asked me every week before I turned 18 if I was sure I wanted to be tested when I made my intentions clear. Every time I told her I was sure. As soon as I was legally old enough to request the test, I propped my arm up and had a nurse draw my blood. When my mom was diagnosed I decided I would find out right away. By not doing so and just acting like I didn't have the gene, I'd be choosing to be ignorant, pretending I'm not effected and think that by pretending it doesn't exist, it wont. Instead I chose to find out and use it as my motivation. I'm now a student at Purdue University studying biochemistry. I have every intention of working with this gene and helping women in hopes I can prevent someone from going through what my family and so many others have gone through.
The hardest part of my journey
The hardest part was realizing I had a significant chance of developing ovarian cancer. My strongest dream is to have children of my own, I've had their names chosen as long as I can remember. I'm still hoping that my dream will come true, but I'm still nervous. The second hardest part is watching my mom every time I go to an exam. I'm heavily monitered now, recieving yearly MRI's, pap smears as well as many pelvic and breast exams. Every time we sit in the exam room right after the doctor leaves, my mom tears up. She tries to hide it, but I still see it. She blames herself for me going through this. She hates knowing some day I'll have to go through all the surgeries and pain she did. I don't blame her though, and I never hate her for giving me this gene. More then anything, I thank her. Because of this gene, I have a motivation, a purpose in life. I intend to help find answers and solutions, I plan on making her proud of her daughter.
If I could do it over again
I've only gone through the testing so I have nothing to regret. I'm still uncomfortable having so many doctors look at my breasts, but I suppose that will change as time goes on.
My participation with FORCE
Just my passion in helping people, I'm hoping my story, experience and knowledge helps someone some day.
Stay strong and never give up. Just because bad news comes your way doesn't mean it's the end. Use it to your advantage, not as a weakness.
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