Earlier this week, I posted something on my personal Facebook Page and what happened next blew me away. Many asked if I was doing research for an article or if I wanted to gain information for my personal use. It was the latter that also turned into the former.
“Women 40 and over, curious to know thoughts on genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, especially if you are of ashkenazi decent and have a family member who was diagnosed with cancer, especially breast/ovarian. (Would love to hear from you if you are younger than 40 but figured you haven’t been informed of this by your OGBYN yet). Would you do something drastic if you did test positive? Would you rather not know and deal with a cancer diagnosis when it happens, if at all? Thanks.”
I will not be sharing anyone’s responses or stories but that is not why I am writing this article. I will say I was amazed at the amount of outreach and feedback I received.
When I went to the Gynecologist for my annual exam, I did not expect to be discussing Cancer. No, I was not diagnosed and do not have Cancer. Apparently though, as I was reminded, I am now 40, which means thinking about my health in a way I never did before.
My doctor informed about genetic testing for BRACA1 and BRCA2 and educated me that I was a candidate for multiple reasons. “Wait, I am young, what would I need this for,” went through my head. Words like, “double mastectomy” and “removal of ovaries” were surrounded by question marks and a face of shock. “WHAT?” The truth is I am not “young” anymore. I am by no means “old” but 40 is 40. I am no longer 20. Although, diseases like Cancer don’t have a preference.
The only thing I knew about genetic testing was from when my husband and I had pre-conception carrier screening for Jewish genetic diseases, which is recommended for all couples with any Jewish ancestry, including interfaith couples.
I turned to Facebook because it is such a powerful platform to reach people and communicate with them. I never expected so many responses, so many personal stories and so much information that came my way. To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement but I don’t mean that in a negative way. In fact, quite the opposite. I was provided with an abundance of precious knowledge and support.
For those who do not know what BRACA1 and BRCA2 are, here is an explanation from the National Cancer Institute along with stastistics. They have wonderful information that is definitely worth reading.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.
This is scary information ladies, but unfortunately, the reality.
Breast cancer: About 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives (4). By contrast, according to the most recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70 years (5, 6).
Ovarian cancer: About 1.3 percent of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer sometime during their lives (4). By contrast, according to the most recent estimates, 39 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation (5, 6) and 11 to 17 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by age 70 years (5, 6).
Knowledge certainly is power and I want to thank every single person who shared their knowledge with me today. As women, I believe it’s so important to talk about our experiences, both good and bad. The whole idea behind Mommy Masters is the concept of sharing our good and bad parenting days, as it helps us to not feel alone.
The same concept goes for women in general, because we are not just moms. I realize this is a very personal issue and am grateful to those that shared their very personal stories, journeys and education with me.
Cancer has unfortunately been on my mind lately. I recently attended a funeral for an 11 year old classmate of my boys, who passed away from a brain tumor. That is not supposed to happen. This little girl was so amazing, strong, giving, selfless and inspiring. She has taught my children (and me), so much, including the concept of strength and positivity at a time when you should feel anything but. Her death has reminded me that life is so precious. One minute we can be healthy and in a heart beat, it can all change.
We don’t always know what people are going through and what measures they are taking to stay as healthy as possible. I am so glad I reached out to my Facebook community and was lucky enough to connect with so many women on this topic. Once again, I urge all of us to share more about what we are going through as women. Our stories can help someone else. Our knowledge can help someone else. It helped me and I thank you all for it.
The phone calls, e-mails, Facebook comments and texts I received today were such a wake up call. I heard from friends I have not spoken to in years. I learned that some of my friends have gone through some really scary things and it is so nice to know that we as women are taking preventative steps towards reducing our risk of Cancers.
Social media is a pretty cool thing. It’s not just about sharing pictures of our kids, our date nights, political opinions, vacations, food we eat, businesses, etc., but inspiring one another, educating one another and supporting one another. Like we tell our kids, “sharing is caring”. ?
Thank you for reading!
Together We Can Master Motherhood™…and so much more!