When I was 50 years old I was in pretty good physical shape and I thought I was finally getting six pack abs. I was wrong – those abs were a large football sized tumor, along with a variety of smaller tumors. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. I had a hysterectomy and fibroid removal when I was 40 years old, but we left the ovaries because of my age – if only I knew then what I know now.
My mom died of adenocarcinoma (lung cancer common in non-smokers) at 62 years old. My middle sister had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in her 20’s (twice)! My dad (a few years after donating bone marrow to my sister – he is a hero) was diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis – and that is just my immediate family’s medical history! Based on this and my personal history, genetic testing was a no brainer for me. It turns out I carry the BRIP1 gene. My youngest sister decided to have a hysterectomy with her ovaries removed at age 47 after learning about my genetic test results – if she had to do it over again, she may have had genetic testing of her own and regular screenings instead (because menopause is not fun). I am grateful to be able to share this information, especially if it can help protect future generations. It took very little effort to get genetic testing and if I can help a family member (or anyone for that matter) by sharing my genetic makeup, it is the least I can do to contribute to the prevention and early detection of cancer. To me, genetic testing is a way for me to help someone else. If there is a possibility of treating, preventing, orcuring cancer, I am all IN – take all the blood, genes, and body parts you want!
I am not sure how or why, but I am one of the lucky few. I know a lot of women are in a constant battle trying to get where I am – 4 years with no evidence of disease (NED). I will do anything I can to help, and I am grateful to the scientists and doctors working so hard to find a cure or better ways to detect cancer early.
―ICARE Participant, Kelly Frank, from Montana