A Healthy Motivation
My grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005. I had just turned ten years old and had arrived back home from overnight camp. I remember sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen having my mom explain the BRCA2 gene to me. She told me that my grandmother is a carrier, which means my dad had a 50% chance of also being a carrier. If he tested positive, then that meant that my brother and I each had a 50% chance of testing positive.
Sure enough, my dad tested positive. At ten years old I asked my mom, “Okay, so when do I get tested?” Unfortunately, I was told that I needed to wait until I was eighteen. My ten year old self asked, “Why?” as most children might ask. She then explained to me that since ovarian cancer from BRCA 2 typically develops at an older age that there is no point for me to know now and a bunch of legal stuff that I didn’t understand. Either way I waited.
As soon as I turned eighteen in 2012, I started having conversations with my mom about being tested. I was heading to college in Colorado in the fall, and I was determined to be tested before I left. We met with a geneticist a few times, and finally I got my blood taken. However, the results would not be in before I left for school. This means I would need to wait until I came back to Chicago for Thanksgiving to set up an appointment to find out the results were positive.
Why was I so determined to find out my results? I figured I had no control over having BRCA2 or not, but I could control how I help my health because of it. Knowing I have BRCA2 means that I am monitored more closely by my doctor. I thought, how could that be a bad thing? At that time, the only thing that was known to possibly increase the chances of developing cancer was living an unhealthy lifestyle. So, it became very important for me to eat well and exercise. It was like a switch flicked on in my brain. I have a higher risk of developing cancer, living a healthy lifestyle will be more helpful in the long run. Even today, I’m constantly reminding myself to not give into my sweet tooth cravings and to exercise. I wanted to be healthy and knowing I have this gene gives me the extra motivation I need.
It wasn’t until 2017 that my family discovered Sharsheret. The name kept coming up, so we did more research and decided that our family foundation should give them a grant to support the important work that they do. I can only imagine how much more help my family would have had with the support and guidance of Sharsheret through this entire process of the BRCA2 mutation becoming a huge part of our family.