My sister and two of my cousins died from ovarian cancers which indicated that there might be a problem. I was therefore tested and found to have the BRCA 2 gene, and it was calculated that I had an eighty per cent chance of The Big C in the form of either ovarian cancer or breast cancer.
As soon as I had the genetic results I had an oophrectomy (removal of the ovaries) but it was less easy to make a decision about my breasts so although I was in full panic mode I delayed for about eighteen months. I had the full support of the consultant who saw me several times in that period, each time examining me and offering enhanced screening or lifelong tamoxifen as alternatives to surgery.
However, an eighty per cent risk felt like, "Would you prefer your mastectomy with or without chemotherapy?" and eventually I decided to go ahead. I had a so-called "Goldilocks mastectomy" removing not too much, not too little but just right. This meant that I had reconstruction using the remaining tissue and I need neither implants nor an external prosthesis.
Today I am going for my annual check, a procedure I am not looking forward to as mammograms are now even more uncomfortable than before. (Oh yes, ladies, it is possible for them to get worse!) I am pretty confident that I shall come out with a smile on my face.
But before I go to the hospital I shall be meeting up with a cousin who is expecting to start chemotherapy today for a (non BRCA2 linked) cancer.
And I am so grateful to the wonderful women who run the Race for Life. If you are one of them, thank you. Through you many of my fears have been put behind me.
Note for non UK readers. Race for life is a national funding campaign for cancer research. Sponsored 5k runs are held all over the country and are mostly run by women wearing pink.