Category Archives: Ovarian Cancer

Young Women With Breast Cancer Are Increasingly Being Tested For BRCA Mutations

percent_cancer_riskUS News & World Report (2/11, Esposito) reports that research published online in JAMA Oncology indicates “testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which significantly increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer, is on the rise among women ages 40 and under who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.”

HealthDay (2/11, Norton) reports that investigators “found that of nearly 900 women who developed breast cancer at age 40 or younger, most had undergone BRCA testing within a year of their diagnosis.” The data indicated that “the percentage went up over time: By 2013, 95 percent had been tested.”

The Cancer Network (2/11, Levitan) reports that the researchers “noted that the high frequency of testing in this cohort likely reflects the fact that most women were insured, educated and treated at major cancer centers.”

“Mommy, are you going to die?”

picture2On May 28th, Thursday, it was the last day of school. I purposely scheduled my quarterly PET Scan, knowing how busy the day was going to be, with all the kids coming over to celebrate with their moms and friends. The anxiety and fear never leaves your mind, and the uncertainty overwhelms you. I tried my best to stay busy, but as the day and night progressed, I could feel my mind wonder. Conversations seemed to be less engaging for me, and all I wanted to do was call my oncologist to hear the results.

I had a big oncology conference the next morning in the city, and I was planning on driving that night after my parents arrived to relieve me. Than, the call came in, 9pm. There was an area, in my left adnexal, near my left ovary and fallopian tube that showed suspicious activity that needed to be further evaluated. All I could think of was, how in the world would I even have the time to find a gynecologic oncologist with my schedule so packed morning till night for the next 7 days. But, I had to do what women do best – put on my work hat, and place this to the back burner to focus on what the priority was at that moment. I had no choice. What I was able to do, and I realize how blessed I am, was the ability to access the top oncologists from all over the world. Professionally, I have the most amazing support network, and I asked every one I knew what this could be, and how to best proceed. The overall suggestion was to undergo surgery to remove this and get the pathology to determine if this was truly ovarian cancer as they suggested on the report, or the return of metastatic breast cancer.

When I arrived home from my trip, I had 3 names of the top gynecologic oncologists in my area. I scheduled my first appointment with a local doctor from Hinsdale Hospital. I went alone thinking I would hear the same suggestions from my connections. But, that was not the case. After my exam, and review of films, and tests, the doctor looked at me and said, “Ms. Jewett, I think you have metastatic breast cancer that has went to your ovary. We are going to need to perform a full hysterectomy. Now, keep in mind this could be benign, or it could also be a new primary, such as ovarian cancer. But, in my professional opinion, I think we are dealing with MBC.” As tears started to roll down my face, all I could think of was how much more could I possibly handle on my plate? Divorce? Cancer? Surgery?

The second opinion was the same recommendation. This doctor was the top gyn-onc from Northwestern. When I heard his thoughts on MBC, I cried and put my hand in his face and asked him to just stop talking. I could not hear anymore of his thoughts. Much less how he was going to take my uterus out through my vagina! I am 38 years old, cancer has taken my breasts, taken my ability to have any more children, and now it is going to take my remaining female parts next? When do I say enough is enough?

Cancer is an evil Bitch.

After that appointment, I had to meet with my attorney that is handling my divorce case. I remember sitting in the waiting room, thinking was this really my life? Not only did we have to discuss my financial concerns surrounding the divorce, but it was also time to consider a Will and Power of Attorney. And, I needed this information in place before my surgery date. I was sick to my stomach. All I wanted to do was to go home and hold my kids so tight and forget this was all happening.

My last appointment was with a female gyn-onc, on Thursday, who had a much more compassionate perspective and approach. She was able to confirm that this was not a mass, it was my ovary that was enlarged, and had some suspicious activity going on. She did agree that the best option would be a full hysterectomy. However, she understands that as a young woman, who is cycling every month, this would not be an easy journey. I asked if it was possible to leave my right ovary, at least until I was ready to let it go. She said she was open to that suggestion, but if I were to test positive for cancer, whether that was metastatic breast or ovarian, it would need to come out, no matter what. I like to think and believe there is hope. And, I like that she is a female doctor who has compassion, and understanding to do what is best for me in the midst of all the uncertainty and anxiety. I have come to realize that with a diagnosis like cancer, patients need to feel as if they have some form of control. It truly does help with the decision making.

When I arrived home from that appointment, my kids were very aware with what was going on. I had tried my best to keep them from all of this until I had a better idea what was going to happen. But, they had to know the reality, it was time. I sat them both down, alone. I explained to them that I had a PET scan, just as I always do every quarter, but this time something showed up that needed further evaluation.

My daughter, Kalli, immediately got upset and told me I was lying and she knows it was cancer. I told her we really did not know that, but I would need to have surgery to take out that “suspicious area” and some other parts to ensure we minimized my risk.

My son, Tyler, looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Mommy, are you going to die of cancer?” At this point, I could no longer hold back my emotions, and I simply told them both that I did not have that answer. What I could promise them was, I fought cancer twice now, and that I would do everything I could to fight it again. And this surgery was part of that process. I explained that we had some time until surgery, and that I wanted to take a vacation with them before, so we could enjoy the rest of their summer vacation before school started.

It has been the worst 3 weeks of my life. I have cried so much, felt the anxiety in my chest, and have feared what lies ahead. What I am so grateful for in the midst of this uncertainty is the overwhelming support, love, and compassion from all my friends and family, near and far, personally and professionally. I have gotten emails, calls, text messages, and cards, that fuel my strength to know we are not alone. There is an army with a lot of gear fighting this battle with us, and I will overcome this next chapter of my life.

So, for now I need time to process the reality. In the meantime, I am going to continue to focus on doing the work I love, embrace every moment of every day, and spend time with the people I love so much.

Life truly has a lot of challenges lately, but there is not a single moment that goes by that I do not count my blessings for the life I have been given.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for the support, and most of all, the love and compassion you have shown the kids and I.