Voices of FORCE

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Terry Leavitt, Northbrook, Illinois

Quick Info About Me

  Voices of Force

Age: 61

No family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Had to be very proactive for the best care and doctors possible.

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My journey

I was 59 when I had a mammogram that revealed a tiny spot that later I found out was malignant. I had a lumpectomy and radiation and sought the advice of 3 well-respected oncologists. 2 out of 3 told me "you're wasting your time by getting genetic testing. You have no family history of breast or ovarian cancer-and you're not that young.Totally unnecessary". 1 of the oncologists suggested genetic testing- and I figured "ok"- what did I have to lose? It's just a blood test- so I went for genetic counseling and they discovered by doing a family history of all that I could remember, the geneticist said I was a candidate for testing since I was Jewish and my father had prostate cancer in his 50's. I recalled no breast or ovarian cancer in my family, but there also wasn't a lot of woman. I was shocked when the results came back BRACA 2 positive- I couldn't believe it! There must be some kind of mistake! I immediately went to the oncologist I was seeing (one that told me not to waste my time) and told him the results- he acted surprised and said that maybe it will be a trend to test all Ashkenazi woman when they get breast cancer. I switched doctors to the one that told me to get tested. My journey began here- I have since had a double mastectomy, oopherectomy and a TRAM FLAP reconstruction of my breasts- which by the way, look great. I'm thankful that I didn't get sick until later in life because it would have been so much more difficult. But I urge everyone to get several opinions and waiver on the cautious side. I had a choice that may save my life. Without the removal of my ovaries, I could have died a year or two later and not even had the choice. Many doctors are not really aware of genetics and can give you incorrect advice.

The hardest part of my journey

The hardest part was the anxiety of waiting for all the test results- by the way were all clear and the many surgeries I had for reconstruction. My breasts look great, but it took awhile to get there. The other hard part was knowing that my 3 boys should now be tested(1 lucked out, the other 2 carry the mutation) and they have to face decisions on how they want to have their own children. I told them that I absolutely don't want them to bring a child(especially a girl) into this world with this mutation. None of my boys have kids yet, but the 2 with the mutation, I hope will take advantage of using the technology that is available now to have their own children without a BRACCA mutation.

If I could do it over again

I would do exactly the same thing.

My participation with FORCE

It helps me understand how others cope and how many people face this issue.

FORCE:Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered