Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Genes Now Fit: A BRCA Journey, Part 2

So where was I? Oh yes, I had found out I carried the BRCA2 gene mutation. Everyone should realize that we all carry two copies of the BRCA2 gene, one from each of our parents. If one of these is mutated, it increases your risk if the one good gene is harmed. The best way I have seen it discussed is in the movie, "In the Family".

I have met the filmmaker, Joanna Rudnick as well as her Mom, and some of the brave women interviewed, Olga and Martha. I highly recommend it and will go into it further in another blog.

I am jumping wayyy ahead! In 1996 when I learned of my status, I had extensive genetic counseling so that I could make informed decisions about what I wanted to do. The options were far-ranging from increased surveillance to surgeries. At that point in time, my son was very young and I was involved in a rocky marriage. I did not need more stress so I opted for increased surveillance. What did this entail?

1. Mammograms every year faithfully! If anything unusual was found an ultrasound and/or MRI.
2. Breast exams once a year with my GYN and six months later with my breast surgeon.
3. Blood work once a year testing my CA-125 which is a marker for Ovarian Cancer.
4. Once a year a Transvaginal Ultrasound. This was not a fun test for a number of reasons but it gave them a good idea of what was going on with my ovaries.

This went on for six years. During the interim, I went through a divorce and mananged to get my life back in order. I even met a man who in 2005 became my 2nd husband. In 2002, I was getting my breast exam with my breast surgeon who happens to also be a former high school classmate of mine. When I first went to him, I was so very embarassed because I had a huge crush on him in 10th grade. The first time I went, I turned beet red because here was my teen crush "feeling me up"! After a shared laugh about it, neither one of us mentioned it again and he became my sounding board about what I was going through with my BRCA journey. We were able to talk easily together and I knew if he recommended anything it was not for economic gain for himself. At the age of 42, I was not going to have more kids. AS an aside, I had babysat my six month old niece and it swayed me over to ending my baby rearing days!

The doctor's suggestion was to have a Bilateral Salpingo Oophorectomy (BSO)which would remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes. (See definition: The surgery would reduce my breast cancer risk by 50% and my ovarian cancer risk down to 3%. Larry and I discussed it thoroughly and felt it was a good way to go for me and our futrure together. April of 2002 I went in to same-day procedures and had the BSO. It was able to be done laporoscopically so I came back to my room in less than 2 hours and ready to go home before lunch! Best of all, my risk was lowered and gave me a better outlook on the future. In about a week I was back to work and feeling OK. It was almost two weeks before I felt up to engaging in anything remotely intimate however! The standard procedure afterwards
at the time was to go on low-estrogen birth-control for 5 years. In 2010, it is put into close inspection and may not be what your doctor will want to do.

This is as good as any to stop and rest up for the balance of the trek!

Love and hugs,

1 comment:

  1. Love your anecdote about your surgeon! So glad you're doing so well, Beth.