BRAC 1 – Hereditary Breast/Ovarian Cancer Gene Mutation Double Prophylactic Mastectomy & Laparoscopic Oophorectomy Reconstruction
I’m Wendy Unger; I have been part of Miami Beach since I moved here as a second grader in 1955. I’m fourth of six generations of my family to live here. I work for the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. I feel it’s the way I can do the “Kennedy” thing by doing what I can do for my city. I inherited the bug for volunteering honestly: my grandmother, Sylvia Rose was very active and my parents stay involved.
Holiday-2009: My sister Nancy has been diagnosed positive with the BRAC 1 Breast & Ovarian Cancer gene. Wow! The doctors say that she has to have her ovaries and breasts removed in order to prevent Breast and Ovarian CANCER! This sucks… Then the ther shoe drops, this thing is hereditary. Each of the other three siblings has to take the test.Nancywas lucky enough to have a physician who knew to test her when he caught a cyst on her ovary. He could have just taken her to surgery and removed the cyst. But, he knew that the BRAC gene was prevalent in the Jewish population, so he asked her to test for the gene.
It’s the holidays; do I have to think about cancer? So, the next step is the test. Being me, I go into it with the idea that it’s just not possible that I could have the gene too. I test, and the results don’t come until January. I’m positive BRAC 1, too, and Seth, my husband, and I have to make a big decision. It’s not intellectually difficult – the oncologist tells you the facts: with the gene, your risk increases from the normal population’s 2-3% to the BRAC’s 85-90% risk. The difficulty in the decision is the emotional one, you have to decide to have your breasts removed and you find that raises a lot of emotions in both partners. Fortunately, there is support to be found: there are organizations (reported at end of story) that provides it.
So, we made our decision and 2010 was a year full of hospital and surgery, those that we planned and one surprise. February was the oopherectomy, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. While I was recovering from my first surgery, I had to have emergency spine surgery. I had to spend several months in therapy before I could have the next Preventative surgery, the double mastectomy, and the removal of my breasts. I had that surgery in July and was lucky enough to have reconstructive surgery at the same time. In my procedure, the physicians and I had chosen to use tissue expanders to help build my new breasts. By November, it was time to have the expanders removed and the implants placed, just the next step in the reconstructive process. Wow, the holidays were upon us again and it was overwhelming to look back at what 2010 had been like for us. But it was not over yet, the reconstructive process continues, February 2nd, I got my nipples, which will take 3 months to heal before I can have them tattooed with color which should end the process. Then I’ll have to have to be vigilant to watch for cancer signs annually.
We are grateful for the blessings that have come our way:
- We had been tapped on the shoulder and given a pass on CANCER maybe I had to have lots of surgery, but no chemotherapy or radiation
- I had been invited to serve on the board of the Miami-Dade unit of the American Cancer Society, something I’d been working towards since 2003
- I had signed up as an Outreach Coordinator with F.O.R.C.E.
- I had offered my services as a Peer Supporter for Sharsheret
The pastor’s words had really come true for us – in what surely looked like apparent misfortune we had found our gift. I knew it was my mission to help others with the hereditary cancer gene to handle their future wisely and carefully. And if I think about it now, I know that in helping others, it’s really made it easier for me. If you are a person with cancer, or the hereditary cancer gene and you’re seeking support or information, please feel free to contact me at.
American Cancer Society – www.cancer.org
American Cancer Society mission statement: The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.
F.O.R.C.E. – www.facingourrisk.org
Mission FORCE’sMissionis: To improve the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. To this end, FORCE has eight mission objectives:
- To provide women with resources to determine whether they are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer due to genetic predisposition, family history, or other factors.
- To provide information about options for managing and living with these risk factors.
- To provide support for women as they pursue these options.
- To provide support for families facing these risks.
- To raise awareness of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
- To represent the concerns and interests of our high-risk constituency to the cancer advocacy community, the scientific and medical community, the legislative community, and the general public.
- To promote research specific to hereditary cancer.
- To reduce disparities among undeserved populations by promoting access to information, resources and clinical trials specific to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.