On January 29th, 2007, my mom sat my brother and I down and gave us some news that would change all of our lives. She had breast cancer. She said everything was going to be okay, it wasn’t going to be a big deal, and she wasn’t even going to lose her hair.
Then her doctors found more cancer. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer which had spread from both breasts to her lymphatic system. After a fierce, courageous, and exhausting battle with chemo and radiation, the removal of her breasts and ovaries, and finally reconstructive surgery, my mother is incredibly blessed to be cancer free, a fate that not many stage 4 patients achieve.
Even after dealing with everything she did, my mom is still incredibly full of life. She is loving, considerate, and loves to be around family and friends, whether it be getting together for a holiday or just to watch the latest season of The Bachelor.
After my mom reached 5 years cancer-free, I was under the impression that the impact that cancer had on my life would finally be a thing of the past. This was until I went to my school’s health center freshman year of college and the doctor asked about my mom’s cancer, specifically whether she had a genetic predisposition to breast cancer.
It was in that moment that the doctor hijacked a conversation that my mom had been preparing to have with me for 5 years.
As it turned out, my mom did test positive for genes that are correlated with breast cancer, meaning that I also may have these same genes. It has taken me quite a while to process this information and what it could mean about my lifestyle and my health. For years, I’ve been too scared to do genetic testing. The initial fear came from the shock of learning that my mom had the gene.
I have grappled with the idea of genetic testing for a while and have now decided that I am ready to accept the results, regardless of what they are.
This summer I set a goal: I would run the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon to show myself that I can live the healthy lifestyle that I would need if I found out I have the genetic predisposition (but even if I don’t, it’s always good to be healthy!) Once I complete the marathon, I will do the testing.
I have wanted to run the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon ever since my senior year of high school. It has always been an influential part of my upbringing, whether it be by cheering on my father while he ran when I was a kid, or volunteering as a high school student giving water to the thousands of runners who passed in front of me. After four years of volunteering at the race, I decided that it’s finally time to run the race myself.
I knew I wanted to run for charity and the first organization I looked at was Bright Pink. I immediately knew it was the one for me, not only because of my family’s experience with breast cancer, but because Bright Pink’s mission is so aligned with my own beliefs and experience.
I want to empower young women by sharing my story and my journey while preparing for the marathon and show the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and being proactive to prevent breast and ovarian cancer.
To be honest, I’ve been afraid of getting genetic testing done since my mom’s diagnosis. But her strength has inspired me to take the necessary steps to be proactive about my health. Running a marathon won’t be easy, but I know that once I’ve finished it, I’ll feel strong enough to take on whatever comes next.
Carrie was inspired to change her lifestyle and learn more about her genetics because of her mother’s cancer diagnosis and genetic predisposition. This Mother’s Day, #GoAskYourMother about your family health history and learn more about genetics at ExploreYourGenetics.org.