food diplomacy through the story of a meal

Archive for BRCA 1 gene


As I sat across from my mother some 4-6 weeks before she passed, I asked her to give me a gift.  To get genetically tested for the BRCA gene and then I would know what I could be looking at down the road.  Having not being able to carry a child to term and adopting a beautiful boy, I knew that would be her final gift to me while she was alive.  To my surprise, having only one person in your family does not raise the “incident” numbers, but the possibilities of getting either breast or ovarian cancer (which she had) were daunting.  I sat on this information, knowing that she had the gene until I was ready for action.

Fast forward four years.  Having worked on a long-term intellectual property project around our genetic material with Lori Andrews at Chicago-Kent College of Law, I was ready.  With marching orders, I made my way to the Gilda Radner Center at Cedars Sinai Hospital and met with Dr. Ora Gordon.  A wonderful and intellectually engage doctor.  We took a few vials of my blood for the breast cancer screening and a cardiovascular assay since it was prevalent in my family.

I truly did not believe that I would have the gene, but lo and behold, I did.  There are a few options to consider (1) wait and watch; (2) full hysterectomy and preventative chemo for 5-years; or (3) full hysterectomy and preventative bilateral mastectomy.  This intensely personal and individual decision was made in a second.  Option #3 and no looking back.

So, in my eyes, while I did the most extreme, I was ready to move forward and enjoy life without the daunting number of 60-80% chance of ovarian cancer.  I hacked at my body to survive .  I modified my aesthetic to be alive for my new son.  I knew that many things would change, but I was ready to go.  Having lost 30+ pounds, it was within 3 weeks post surgery that all the weight and more came back.

So for those who ask why this surgery.  I want to feel different in my body for however long I have it.  I want to feel different in the world and continue to experience an embodied life differently.  I undertook this process quietly and privately for the last two years, and seriously since this past January.  With two doctors suggesting the surgery to limit other menopausal effects (high blood pressure, weight gain, osteoprosis, etc.), I pushed their recommendations and advice aside for the last two years.  It was not until early 2011 that I even could consider this as an option.  So, to those who work in the field of breast/ovarian cancer research, I toast you with my sugar-free orange popsicle.


And now you know why.

Last photo of my mom.