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Elise shares her story for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It’s October! And it’s certainly very hard to ignore the amount of wonderful pink pink pink splattered everywhere at the moment meaning it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This is a very important time for alisha & I because, like so many people, we have had some friends and family close to us lose their battle with breast cancer.

However thankfully survival rates have improved more recently and this has a lot to do with the tireless efforts of many to raise funds for research which in turn leads to improved detection and treatment options.

National Breast Cancer Foundation - October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Statistic of the National Breast Cancer Foundation

Back in February of this year, we shared our dear friend Elise’s story with you. Elise was faced with a very difficult choice when she found out she had the BRACA1 gene – a strong indicator for the likelihood of developing breast cancer. It’s now 12 months since her surgery, and we know many of you are keen to hear how she is doing.

Today we are posting Part 1 of her story again for those who may have missed it the first time around, and next Tuesday, we will share her update.


Breast Examination
Photo by Sean Locke

My mother’s side of the family has a little issue we have been dealing with for a while now. And, as expected, it is now directly affecting me.

The ‘family curse’ is the BRACA1 gene. Mutation of this gene along with its ‘friend’ the BRACA2 gene, are strong indicators for both breast & ovarian cancers. A test has now been developed for women to find out if they carry the genes, and therefore be able to make some decisions to minimise risk of developing these cancers in the future.

My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mum all developed breast cancer.  It was a big decision but given such a high level of risk, I decided to go ahead and take the gene test.

I wasn’t shocked by the news that I had it. I just had that feeling. A mother’s intuition. That inner voice that is so prominent and usually always right!

So I have the gene, what next?

I basically had 2 choices:

  1. Surveillance a few times a year (a bit scary, as this gene is very aggressive, plus  if you do test positive for the gene, you have an 85% chance of developing cancer). I couldn’t help but think – what if they miss something on the screens early enough, like what happened with mum? Was I willing to take this chance?
  2. Mastectomy – the removal of one or both breasts

I’m sure you will agree these are not really the greatest of choices. So what did I do?

After much discussion with my mum and husband, I decided I was going to have to get rid of these lovely boobs. I will have to remove these lovely boobs that supported the early life of my two children. I have to say good-bye to these lovely boobs that could kill me. However, my children can’t afford not to have me here, so really, the choice was pretty easy to make. And in doing so, I reminded myself that I am also very lucky to have this option to make. How lucky that I can get a test and make an informed decision about what is best for me to do. This choice may not be right for everyone, but it was the right one for me.

2 months post-op and I was cruising along well given the restrictions that were placed on me for all those things you take for granted in everyday life – like washing your hair! I was adjusting to the change as best I could, and I was recovering quite well.

But a set back at the moment sees me back to my hospital room. Cellulitis has kicked in – so I am now in hospital with quite a bad infection.

It’s been five days now and the hardest part is really missing the kids, and missing my husband. Which unfortunately brings us back to why I’m not loving being a woman today.

We will keep up to date with Elise’s recovery, and we send her our love and thanks for sharing her story so far with us.

If you would like to find out more about gene testing, like what Elise chose to do, you can find more information from the Cancer Council, Breast Cancer Network Australia, Ovarian Cancer Australia, or speak with your GP.

We thank Elise for sharing her very personal story and look forward to hearing about her ongoing journey next Tuesday.

~ alisha & anna

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