A Hispanic BRCA1 Family Story
By Marisol Rosas
I watched my mother fight breast cancer for several years when I was very young, only to lose her when I was eight years old to ovarian cancer. Since then, I always feared I would one day have those same fights.
First, there was fear
I first learned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genetic testing more than 16 years ago, when my cousin who had breast cancer tested positive for a BRCA1 mutation. At that time, I was single and eager to ignore this information. However, it was always in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to undergo genetic testing, because I was afraid of what I would find out.
Then I found courage
Years later, married with two beautiful sons, I went for my routine mammogram. The doctors found two calcification specs. Given my family history, the doctor suggested I have genetic counseling and testing. It was time to face my fears. The thought of being sick and not being there for my boys led me to decide that the test was too important to ignore. I realized that, unlike my mom, I had the privilege of having this information. I took the test and found out that I had a BRCA1 genetic mutation. I have had a prophylactic double mastectomy and prophylactic bilateral salpingo oophorectomy. I am a previvor and am proud of it.
With courage came empowerment…and FORCE
Upon receiving my positive test results, I was frightened, but I decided to become empowered. I decided to fight and learn as much as possible. That is when I found FORCE, a wonderful non-profit organization with extensive resources and an incredible community of fighters, like me.
The FORCE website was a constant source of support and information throughout my journey, from deciding on a reconstruction procedure, finding support through my recovery after surgery to getting answers to questions about my bilateral salpingo oophorectomy. I have attended FORCE’s annual conference, which made me feel like I am part of a community of brave and amazing people. Still, today, FORCE helps me feel empowered. I know I am not alone.
I am grateful to FORCE and am inspired to give back to others based on my own experience. I am honored to be the volunteer in charge of the FORCE Helpline, as well as an integral part of the Peer Navigation Program.
My Hispanic community
Many others in the Hispanic community are not as educated about hereditary cancer as I have become. To help others in my culture, I spend time sharing what I know with others in this community. I have participated in several Hispanic conferences, both at home and beyond our borders.
Every day I speak with people facing the same challenges I have faced. The more calls I answer, the more I continue to learn and feel inspired by the strength and perseverance of so many others.
Marisol Rosas, BRCA1 Previvor