I’m A Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor And One Of The 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews Who Carry The Breast Cancer (BRCA) Gene Mutation
I’m Madeline Benjamin. I live in Kansas City with my husband Jay, our 3-year-old daughter, Eden, our doodle, Marshall and one baby on the way.
I’m a Triple Negative Breast Cancer SURVIVOR and one of the 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews who carries the Breast Cancer (BRCA) gene mutation.
Everyone has the BRCA genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2). You have a mutation when you have only one BRCA gene, making you more susceptible to certain cancers.
In 2017, I did a 23andMe genetic testing kit. With some familiarity around this, I scheduled a meeting with a genetic counselor who assisted me with next steps. I began visiting breast and gynecological oncologists regularly, along with imaging. I also created a health plan with my medical team, with the desire to get a preventative double mastectomy once I was done having children.
Fast forward to June 2021, Eden was 18-months old. I went in for my routine MRI and got called back for a biopsy. A few days later, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). There are multiple types and stages of breast cancer. TNBC is one of the most aggressive and hardest to treat. Most often caught late, TNBC doesn’t always respond to a “typical” chemo regimen. Because mine was caught early, I had reassurance from my team that my likelihood of conquering my diagnosis was massively higher.
I was lucky. Had I not been monitored, I wouldn’t have known I had the tumor as it was interior and could not be felt. I went through 6 rounds of chemo, lost all my hair and had a double mastectomy in November 2021. On thanksgiving night, I received the news that there was no evidence of disease. I was cancer free.
My biggest takeaway is to know your genetics and tackle your potential risk.
Many young Jewish adults do genetic testing before starting families, testing for genetic diseases such as Tay Sachs. Genetic screening for the BRCA gene mutation is typically by request. Learn more from an actual expert. It can be scary, but it’s truly worth it.
I am so grateful for organizations like Sharsheret that provide resources not only around a cancer diagnosis, but also around the genetics involved. They have so many resources, whether you want to simply read and do your own research, attend an event or speak with someone going through a similar situation. I came across Sharsheret near the end of my treatment but felt so supported from the moment I reached out. They immediately sent me a survivorship kit with customized resources that were incredibly helpful as I was about to tackle life post-cancer. I’m sure I will utilize them even more as my daughter grows up and I have to tackle this topic with her at the age-appropriate time – to ensure she is safe and has a plan.