BRCA noun (bra-ka):
Either of two tumour suppressor genes that in mutated form are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
By Ellie Rogers & Lisa Bardas.
Our story is a personal one, but cancer is universal. This emperor of all maladies, this 21st-century plague, knows no boundaries, and its insidious web has touched us all.
My story starts 18 months ago when I was skiing at Mt Buller with my young children. It was a perfect bluebird day, the summit a crest of white, and I was sitting on the chairlift when my phone rang. I recognised the doctor's number immediately and my heart sank. The small lump that I had detected in my breast a few day’s prior was, as I had feared, malignant. I had cancer. I was 38 years old.
The next few weeks passed by in a blur of tests and appointments. The silent hush of anxiety as I awaited the results, the triple negative pathology and a good prognosis preceded chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, including a lumpectomy, bilateral mastectomy, bilateral sapling-oophorecomy and hysterectomy. Three months later my sister, Lisa, would also be diagnosed with the same BRCA gene mutation that I now discovered I carried. Since then our father, uncle, aunt and cousins have all tested positive, too, leaving nine children ranging from 15 down to one year old twins in the firing line with a 50/50 chance of being carriers of this same gene mutation.
We had lost our mum to cancer over a decade earlier. We had both sat beside our closest girlfriends as they too battled the disease. All of us were diagnosed in our 30s. Too young to be faced with one’s mortality; too young to endure the multiple and invasive surgeries, but also lucky in that we had access to the best possible medical care.
But what does the future of cancer look like for BRCA gene mutation carriers? And when will we begin the difficult process of testing our children to see if they too carry the gene?
In 2019, we will host Mt. Buller's first Winter Ball. An exquisite evening of cocktails and canapes, charitable pledges, live DJs, and dancing, we hope to raise $1,000,000 to support the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
We thank you for taking the time to read our story, and we look forward to seeing you at The Winter Ball.