Debbi told her sister, "I am the fillin' station, and you are the service station."
"When I felt my own lump in the shower nine years later, at age 39, I didn't panic or cry right away," Traci recalls now, "I just thought: 'Well, it's my turn.' Turns out I was triple negative, too, so I had both breasts removed, did chemo, and had a hysterectomy."
Traci and her physician talked about two genes - BRCA1 and BRCA2. A woman's risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
Traci got tested, and was positive.
"So Debbi got checked," said Traci, "and she was positive, too, so she had her other breast removed and had a hysterectomy."
A third sister, Kristi, got a suspicious mammogram three years after Traci's diagnosis. "She didn't even blink," said Traci. "She was triple negative and BRCA positive, too, so, like me, without even really thinking about it - double mastectomy, hysterectomy. and chemotherapy."
"Even though we're pretty scarred up, with very different reconstruction jobs," said Traci, "we are all alive and relatively healthy. At least I think so. No insurance has kept me from follow-up appointments. Scary, huh?"
"Another sister, Denise, was spared breast cancer but had uterine and cervical cancer seven years ago," said Traci, "and is also doing well.
"Depending on where you look, you'll get different information about the BRCA gene," Traci said. "My oncologist told me that because I had breast cancer and carried the BRCA1 gene, my chances of getting ovarian cancer increased by more than 80 percent. Knowing that, and knowing that it would seal the deal on me ever having a child of my own, something I always desperately wanted (even spending in excess of $20,000 on in vitro fertilization - is that what caused my cancer?), having a hysterectomy was one of the hardest decisions of my life. No baby for me. No baby for Denise, either. She desperately wanted one, too. Cancer killed that dream for both of us.
"Just a footnote," Traci added, "my father died from his renal cell/lung cancer three days after my 40th birthday while I was bald and going through chemo. My Mom was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer that has spread to her brain and spine in March of this year, a few days before her 70th birthday. I've moved from Dallas to St Petersburg, Fla., to take care of her while she goes through her palliative care."
One thing, says Traci, is for certain:
"My nieces and nephews needed to get checked for the BRCA gene!"
- Michael Vitez
Contact Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639 or email@example.com.