Wednesday, August 21, 2013


                  this is the story of my journey with BRCA testing, results and my ongoing journey

  Almost 2 years ago my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 39.  Due to her young age and the type of cancer, the surgeon requested to have all extended family members participate in genetic cancer testing.  About a year and a half ago my father got tested and found out that he was BRCA 2 positive, as was my cousin and her sister.  Due to my father's positive results I needed to be tested.  I had a 50/50 chance of being positive.

  With the relocation to Utah I was not in a place to deal with the testing and results, until May of this year.  Angelina Jolie had already made public her testing, surgeries and feelings. It was a "HOT"topic of the moment.  On May 28th I went to the surgeon for my BRCA test. I was nervous, had a lot of questions, but ultimately I was pretty confident that I would test positive and wanted to know what my options were.  

  BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 is a gene mutation that produces a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome for affected family members.  Testing positive also puts you at risk for prostate,  cervical, uterine, pancreatic, stomach, gallbladder, colon, bile duct and melanoma cancers.

  In July, I received the news that I was positive for the BRCA 2 deleterious mutation.  The surgeon explained to me that I had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer before I was 70. It was no longer a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN. 

  The good news is I had options.  It was up to Scott and I to decide what option we wanted to choose.  1st option: I could have screening every 6 months consisting of MRI's and mammograms and take tamoxifen (cancer drug). This option felt like I would be waiting for the cancer.  2nd option: Undergo a Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy and reconstruction. With this surgery I would go from an 87% chance of getting breast cancer to a 97-99% chance of not getting breast cancer. 

  So many things to consider...
I was still fairly young.
My kids were young and I wanted to see them grow, marry and have kids.
I would be a nervous wreck every 6 months doing testing.
Could I emotionally and physically handle such an aggressive surgery, recovery and reconstruction?
What were Scott's thoughts and feelings?
I needed to discuss this with Kenzie and Jensen.

  Emotions ran high for awhile. I couldn't talk about it without breaking in tears. It occupied my mind constantly. There was definitely an "elephant" in the room.  Through much discussion, pondering and prayer, We came to a decision as a family.  I am immensely grateful for a faithful, strong and courageous family.  This is truly a family journey and I couldn't do any of it without them.

  When Scott and I went to the appointment with the general surgeon we had made up our minds which option we would choose.  On  August 28th I will be having a Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy with reconstruction.  This will be my first of two surgeries. Hopefully in 2-3 months I will have had my second surgery and be completely on the road to recovery.

  For me, this surgery is what gives me peace of mind.  I feel at peace about this.  I know there is a long, hard road ahead, but I am willing to sacrifice so that I can have a leg up on this horrible cancer.  I am starting to feel anxious and nervous about the upcoming surgery, but who wouldn't? 

  I can't help but be reminded about some of my "mottos" from year's past...
We Can
Hard Things!

It Will
All Work Out!

  This has been a tender mercy in our lives.  We have felt blessed through out this whole process.  

-12.5 % (1 out of 8) American women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime; as women age this percentage will increase.
 The risk is higher for women who:
-Are carriers of the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 deleterious mutations genes
-Have strong immediate family history of breast cancer
-Breast tissue density is high
-Personal history of breast cancer

Prophylactic Mastectomy:
-Surgical removal of one or both breasts
-For women who are at high risk to prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer
-Current data suggests that preventive mastectomy may significantly reduce (by about 90%) the chance of developing breast cancer in moderate and high risk women.


Anna said...

Wow, Brandee. What a difficult situation and decision you've had to make. I applaud your courage and am happy you have your supportive family around you. I will be praying for you!

Unknown said...
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Lee Ann said...

Brandee, you are such an awesome woman with an awesome family! You display more trust and courage than most. Many prayers coming your way! Lee Ann

Natalie said...

I didn't realize you were going through this! I'm sure it was a difficult decision to make. I pray the surgeries will go well. I am impressed with your strength and courage!