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Lisa S, Chevy Chase, MD

     

  Voices of Force

Age: 43

Previvor, BRCA1, preventive oophorectomy in 2007, bilateral prophylactic mastectomy w/ recontruction in 2008

 

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My journey

My paternal grandmother died of cancer and both paternal great-grandmothers died relatively early of “female” cancers. My paternal aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 51. She participated in a study at Sloan Kettering in NY and was found to carry the BRCA1 mutation. In 1999, at the age of 32, I had genetic testing as part of that study, in conjunction with research being done at the Lombardi Cancer Institute in Washington, DC. I learned that I too am BRCA1+. Recently married, I chose to do increased surveillance of my ovaries and breasts while I started my family and went about my life.

The hardest part of my journey

In 2006, when I turned 40, the constant screenings and anxiety about “what if” became overwhelming. I have 2 young children and I want to see them grow up. My husband and I embarked on a 6-month research mission to determine the best course of action for me. Every doctor we spoke to said the oophorectomy was a must. The prophylactic mastectomy was a tougher decision, but in the end I decided to go forward with it because the options for reconstruction are much better if you don’t have cancer--and I wanted the option to take HRT.

Making the decision to have the prophylactic surgeries was very difficult. Many of my friends thought I was being too aggressive, although they would never say it. I was also terribly afraid of going into menopause.

If I could do it over again

As I look back, I don't think I would change anything. I'm glad I initially opted for surveillance and waited to do the surgeries until I was 40.

My participation with FORCE

FORCE is really the only organization dedicated to BRCA+ individuals. The information, resources and community are invaluable. I only wish I had found FORCE earlier! I've become passionate about educating others about hereditary cancer and FORCE has given me a vehicle through which to achieve this, first as a local outreach coordinator and now on a national level.

Other thoughts

The surgeries were hard, but in the end, I don’t regret my choices. I have peace of mind and know that I did the right thing for me and my family. I've been given a gift...the gift of knowledge, which has enabled me to make choices that may ultimately save my life.

 


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