I never knew my Dad’s sister, Aunt Pearl, because she died of breast cancer at age 52 before I was even born. Many years later my father was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer at age 79 and was treated successfully with radiation therapy. To be honest, it never occurred to me that the two cancers might be linked. But then a few years later my dad was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 83. Until his diagnosis, I didn’t know that men could get breast cancer. My dad had genetic testing and learned that he carries a mutation in the BRCA2 gene. Coincidently, within days my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 47. It was then that things got scary. Two of my close family members had now been diagnosed with cancer and I wondered if I would be next.
I’m a proactive person and wanted the facts so I could come up with a game plan. My doctor referred me to the Yale Cancer Center Genetic Counseling Program and my genetic counselor drew out a diagram (a pedigree) of everyone in the family who had been diagnosed with cancer. When I saw our history sketched out in picture form it became obvious that cancer really was running in our family. After some consideration, I decided to have my blood drawn for genetic testing and learned that I do not carry the BRCA2 mutation. Of course, I was relieved that I don’t carry the mutation; but, if I had, I wanted to know so that I could do what I needed to do to keep myself healthy.