Today I had the privilege of meeting Caitlin Brodnick (@caitybrodnick), who is 31-year-old comedian living in New York. Caitlin carries the BRCA 1 gene mutation and made the life-changing decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I am currently battling ‘Cyril’ in my ovaries, but my mind is made up that when I am back to full health next year, I too will have a preventive double mastectomy. My current situation makes me feel that my breasts are a ticking time bomb. When I watched Caitlin’s documentary; ‘Screw You Cancer,’ which documents her journey, I felt inspired by her story. Previously, the idea of removing my breasts seemed terrifying. Meeting Caitlin today, and seeing how happy she is with the surgeries, fills me with hope for when it is my turn to go through it. As Caitlin says, ‘they are DIY boobies!’ But these DIY boobies will take all my fears away, and as I discovered today, the constant need for a bra (so every cloud and all that!)
Caitlin spoke of growing up knowing that cancer was prevalent on her father’s side of the family, but it took her a long time to want to take the test. After finding out that she tested positive, it took her a while to comes to terms with it and decide on her next steps. I felt similar to Caitlin. When I heard that I had tested positive, I did not know what to think. I was so anxious about this news, and waiting for breast screening at age 30 did not sit right with me. I immediately went to have my breasts checked and a plan was put in place to have screening every six months. At the same time, I went to my gynecologist to have a pelvic scan and CA125 blood test, which would be once a year. My anxiety about the potential risks of this gene started to get better because I was being checked. However, in the back of my mind, I always wondered about what would show up on the screen. Lumps in my breasts were found, but thank God they were always benign.
Even though going for constant checks is frightening and leaves a nervous feeling in my stomach, I do not regret being tested. In fact, I am thankful that the BRCA 1 gene mutation was discovered in my family, because knowledge is power. It allowed me to make informed decisions about my body. Even though Cyril has hit me at an age that is very rare (most probably due to the gene mutation), I am comforted by the fact that I knew about the gene mutation and was getting myself checked. If you have strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer, I urge you to visit your GP and have the discussion about genetic testing. As I prove, it can hit earlier than the national statistics state in BRCA 1 and 2 positive people. It is a very challenging test to go through, but knowing allows you to make plans for the future and take steps to manage the risks. I had my test at Northwick Park Hospital and the genetic specialists support you through the whole process.
I also had the privilege of meeting Caroline Presho, who is head of the BRCA Umbrella group. Caroline works tirelessly to raise awareness for BRCA mutations and provides vital support to lots of people. We spoke today about the issue of misdiagnosis; the need to raise awareness amongst GPs and how women of all ages with BRCA gene mutations need to be vigilant of the risks these mutations cause. I look forward to doing more work with Caroline in the future and being part of a group that is bringing BRCA gene mutations to the public’s attention and making people stop and think.
To follow Caity’s story, please click this link to view her documentary.
Please have the conversation with your loved ones about your family history regarding breast and ovarian cancer, and get to the GP to see if you are eligible for the testing. The links below will provide you with further information.