#WeAreAllTheFaceofBreastCancer This October
BRCA2+ | UNDIAGNOSED | PREVIVOR
In Her Own Words…
I was just 22 when I learned I was BRCA2 positive, a leading marker for breast and ovarian cancer. My mother had been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer and unfortunately lost her four-year battle with the disease at the young age of 52. Shortly after my mother lost her life to breast cancer, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 53. He elected to have his prostate removed and is currently doing well. He is one of my greatest supporters and was there for me as she struggled with the fear of believing that she was next to develop cancer. I always felt that the odds were stacked against me, having been born into three generations of women affected by breast cancer.
Experiencing the pain of losing my mother and watching my father deal with cancer moved me into action. My gynecologist suggested genetic counseling and testing, and it was not surprising that I tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation. I believe that this simple blood test not only saved my life, but it empowered me and helped me find the knowledge I needed to make informed medical decisions. At the age of 22, I began working with a high-risk oncologist. To stay on top of my health, I began annual mammograms, transvaginal ultrasounds, and rotating breast ultrasounds and MRIs. After a ten-year surveillance journey, my husband and I decided to explore other preventive options. In December 2016, at 31, I underwent a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy followed by reconstruction in March 2017. To date, I continue my transvaginal ultrasounds and CA-125 blood work to monitor my ovarian health and self-breast exams, and annual clinical exams to monitor my breast health. I educated my father about genetic testing and advocated for him, and in February of 202, he underwent genetic testing as a prostate cancer survivor, and his results were negative. I can now confirm that I receive my gene mutation from my mother.
I was not ready for the emotional journey. There were moments I felt less than a woman because I thought my breasts defined me. One of my fears was that my husband would not look at my body the same. He loves my body. There were moments I cried about not being able to breastfeed again. I was fortunate to breastfeed my daughter, and I am glad to have shared that experience with her. I also struggled with my scar appearance, but my husband has taught me to embrace them. I could not have made it through this process without him. I learned to remind myself that my mind, character, and strength define my womanhood. I have learned to embrace my scars because they tell my story, and that is, and I have been “Gracefully Broken” and rebuilt with strength. On this journey, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges, but along the way, I have discovered my strength and purpose, and all glory goes to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Four years later, I feel empowered, more confident, and know that this decision did not define me. It refined me!
In 2018, while having difficulty explaining to my then 2-year daughter why I couldn’t hold her, hug her, or picker her up for several months, I authored “The Big Discovery.” The story of a breast cancer diagnosis serves as an educational tool to assist families and children in navigating through a breast cancer journey. This resource aims to help facilitate one of the difficult conversations a mother could have with her children to help them understand the importance of early detection, testing, and a breast cancer diagnosis. The treatment process is introduced but is left open so families can navigate through their options and make informed decisions.
I am inspired by the three generations of women who died from breast cancer in my family, my father, and the amazing patient advocates I work with. There was a time I did not see myself as a breast health and genetic testing advocate or in scientific research, but I have developed an intellectual curiosity, and the constant quest for medical cures and health equity in the African American population continues to drive me and my work. We must keep moving that needle.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey?
The most challenging part of my journey has been discovering and embracing my new normal and traveling my journey and life without my mother who lost her lie to metastatic breast cancer. My mom died at 52, and I sometimes feel and fear that my children might grow up without me. I sometimes feel like history will repeat itself because it did for three generations.
What one thing you want all breast cancer patients to know?
You are not alone!
What is your superpower?
I am a MOM!
What is your theme song?
What is your favorite movie?
What is your go-to snack?
What your spirit animal?
The Lion or An Eagle
What is your favorite food?
There are so many! Mexican Food.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
“Unlearn Your Limitations”
— Steven Furtick
WE ARE ALL THE FACE OF BREAST CANCER