"My Battle with Breast Cancer"
"I Had the Breast Cancer Gene"
In Kristin's family, however, there were no such warning signs. Her entire family is Italian. And while Kristin and Angela's grandmother had died of ovarian cancer in her forties, she'd had three boys, including Kristin's father, and no girls. Until Angela got sick, there was nothing to make doctors suspicious. "This thing was lurking in our family, and we had no idea," Kristin says.
Test results showed that Angela's dad carried the gene, and so did his brother, Kristin's father. Kristin was frightened, but she tried not to panic. "I had this strong hunch that I'd be positive," Kristin says. "I just knew it, but I didn't let myself freak out." In March 2009, when she and Andrew should have been enjoying newlywed life, Kristin went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to get a blood test for the gene. "As soon as we found out that my dad was positive, it was the natural next step for me to get tested," she says.
During the two-hour meeting beforehand, a genetic counselor explained to Kristin the enormous risks facing a woman who is BRCA positive and the stepped-up vigilance she would need to adopt: mammograms alternating with MRIs every six months as well as several physical exams every year. "I couldn't believe this was happening," Kristin says. "I felt as if I had been thrust into someone else's life."
The test results, which came three weeks later, confirmed her worst fear: She had the BRCA1 gene. This meant that Kristin was tremendously likely to get breast cancer, possibly in the next five years because BRCA1 breast cancers are often early onset, Dr. Port says. Kristin also had an increased risk of ovarian cancer. "The genetic counselor handed me a box of tissues and said, 'I'm sorry,' with this look of sadness on her face," Kristin recalls. "I remember thinking, stop looking at me like that! You're acting as if I have cancer now."
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