Michelle Heaton, a British reality TV star who regularly passes comment in celeb magazines such as OK!, is reportedly facing the decision of whether to have a double mastectomy and both her ovaries removed after discovering she has a gene known to cause breast and ovarian cancer.
This is a decision I may be facing myself at some point in the not-too-distant future. As I mentioned in my very first blog post, breast cancer in young women is extremely rare. My maternal grandmother, Hetty, had breast cancer when she was 36, and this could mean the disease runs in the family. That was back in the 1960s. I’m not sure whether the technology existed back then to test for the BRCA2 gene, but she certainly wasn’t tested for it.
My male oncologist automatically referred me to a geneticist and I am waiting to hear back about an appointment, but the question remains as to whether I really want to know if I have a gene that could affect the rest of my life. The female oncologist I saw last month regarding my fertility choices explained that many people may prefer not to be tested for the gene because of the implications of what they may discover.
Finding out one has the gene may mean deciding not to have kids in future so as not to pass it on, or having both breasts and ovaries removed in order to reduce the chance of recurrence of cancer. Do I really want to make these decisions at 30 years old, still single and childless? And should my mum and other relatives be tested too? It’s a question I certainly don’t have to answer immediately but one that I have no choice but to consider. And I consider it a question of responsibility – towards any future kids I may be fortunate enough to have, as well as to myself and those who care about me.
With such life-altering questions looming large, I took myself off to York for the afternoon for a bit of light relief with friends. Light relief in Laura Price’s world usually involves copious amounts of food, as you know, and today was no different. My love of brunch and full English breakfasts is growing by the day, so I had this exquisite Breakfast Rosti at Betty’s Tea Rooms. Poached egg, bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms on a bed of potato rosti = definition of happiness.
Note: the egg is hard-poached due to the fact that my chemo book says I’m not allowed to eat runny egg for some germ-related reason or other. There are lots of foods I can’t eat during chemo – soft cheeses, live yoghurt, alcohol, shellfish – it’s basically like being pregnant, only you don’t get a baby at the end of it. But I consider the no-runny-egg rule a travesty. Boiled eggs and toast soldiers would be bliss right now… Roll on, December!
I finished off with these delicious homemade chocolate fudge brownies, courtesy of a friend’s mum. (Chemo book says avoid processed foods and cakes at all costs, but homemade cakes with all natural ingredients are positively encouraged. I consider this my license to eat cake!)
Finally, I consider myself lucky not only that I have the most amazing, brilliant set of friends, but also because several of said amazing, brilliant friends are school teachers who are therefore in their summer holidays and can spare a bit of time to meet me for some friend-therapy during the week. I’ll sign off for today with this pic of Helen and Michelle safe in the boundaries of beautiful York’s city walls.