By: Brooke DuLaney
My story started 10 years ago when I visited a primary care physician
for migraines. During the history portion, they noticed that my father’s
side was very heavy with breast cancer. My grandma had BC, my aunt, and
my great aunt. All had survived but that raised a red flag for them.
They mentioned a new genetic test that had just come out for the BRCA
gene and thought I should be tested for it. Not thinking anything of it,
I took the blood test. At that time, I just started my career working
at a cancer hospital working as a speech pathologist. While I was at
work one day, I got the phone call that I tested positive for the BRCA2
gene. I was shocked. I had no idea what this meant. I had no genetic
counseling…all I knew was that I was at risk for getting cancer. My
boss at the time had connections within the breast clinic and had me
meet one of the breast surgeons that day to talk about what this all
meant. I was grateful that I worked at a cancer center and could quickly
get into the system. From then on at 25 years old I would be followed
by the genetic breast clinic for biannual routine mammograms, MRIs and
ovarian ultrasounds to screen for cancer. I was told that around age
“35” I should strongly consider prophylactic surgery. That age always
stuck in my head. I was still single at this point and I had “plenty of
As the years rolled by I met my future husband and we got married when I was 30 and had our first daughter later that year. 16 months later I suffered a miscarriage but quickly got pregnant two months after that. During both pregnancies, I was not screened for breast cancer. I had one scare when I was pregnant and thought I felt something, but hormonal changes can cause lumps. No instrumental evaluations are done during pregnancy routinely. When my second daughter was 7 months, my eldest was jumping on the bed and landed on my chest. That’s when I felt IT. The LUMP. It was there. I immediately called the breast clinic and tried to describe what I felt. No one was immediately alarmed as I just finished breast feeding and I could have “lumpy boobs”. When I went in a few weeks later to have my mammogram, I could tell immediately by the mammographer’s eyes that something was wrong. I was rushed into an ultrasound and then the radiologist came in. Since I work at that hospital, I knew the radiologist. She wiped away my tears while performing the biopsy and told me that this was most likely cancer.
I couldn’t believe this. I was only 33 years old. I was supposed to have time and have prophylactic surgery by 35. I spent years being so careful and being proactive in my scans and I still got cancer. To make matters worse, I had stage 2 triple negative cancer. I went through 6 months of aggressive chemotherapy, a double mastectomy with reconstruction and a prophylactic oophorectomy with hysterectomy given the risk of ovarian cancer. I would not give cancer the satisfaction of getting me again.
Having cancer while being a mother to an infant and a toddler was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I didn’t want my girls to be scared of me looking different or sick. I just wanted to be mommy. People are right, kids are resilient and I was still their mommy no matter what I looked like. My family and husband were amazing during my treatment. I needed so much help even doing the most basic things.
Now that I am one year cancer free, I have started a support group in my city for other young moms going through this. Talking to people my own age dealing with the very day task of raising kids and a family helped me and now it’s my chance to help others. I know that when my girls are older they will need to be tested for the BRCA gene and I pray every day that they test negative. If they are positive, I hope medicine improves in the next years and that eventually they can come up with a cure for breast cancer so that they do not have to go through what I did.