Wednesday, January 25, 2012

JAMA publishes new study on BRCA mutations and improved ovarian cancer survival

Today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association includes an important new article on improved ovarian cancer survival for BRCA mutation carriers co-authored by Dr. Ora Gordon, co-author of Positive Results. A link to the JAMA article can be found here.

A summary of the study's conclusion is that for patient's diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer, both BRCA1 mutations and BRCA2 mutations confer improved 5-year survival, independent of cancer stage at diagnosis.  Confirming the conclusion of prior studies, the new analysis found that BRCA2 carriers have the best disease prognosis.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Mastectomies: The five year update

Five years ago today my husband drove me home from the hospital after my prophylactic mastectomies.  I was nauseous in the car but anxious to be home in my own bed.  My youngest son, who was eight at the time, was finding it difficult to sleep without me home.  Once I was home, all was right in his world, regardless of the fact that I could do virtually noting for him. For the next week, after my husband washed my hair in the sink, my sons would perform the role of hair stylist and blow dry my hair.  Fortunately for me I have naturally straight hair that looks pretty much the same regardless of the abuse to which it is treated.

Fast forward five years:  My youngest son is 13 and now in the firm grip of early puberty with its hormonal surges, early growth of facial hair, rapid increase in stature, moodiness and total rejection of mom.  These days he only takes the iPod headphones out of his ears long enough to demand that I do something for him.  Of course I am now firmly in the throws of surgical menopause from my prophylactic removal of my ovaries so let's just say menopause and puberty don't mix so well and leave it at that.

Prior to my mastectomies, one of my worries was how I would feel about my reconstructed breasts over time.  This week, on the five year anniversary of my mastectomies, I have mostly been too busy with the rest of my life to even ponder this question.  Life goes on.  Except in the small circle of women friends who are also BRCA-positive, my surgeries and my post-surgical feelings about my breasts are never discussed.  My experience with my surgeries, while life changing, do not continue to define my life.

For a period of more than three years BRCA did consume my life.  I had to face the cancer risk imparted on me by genetics and have the guts to do what my intellect told me was right but my emotions told me was crazy.  Then I made the equally irrational decision to write a book to help others, which I could not have done without the help and support of one of the most brilliant and dedicated doctors around -- Dr. Ora Gordon.  Once the book was published I continued to be immersed in this world through my volunteer work with FORCE, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and this blog.  Those of you who regularly follow this blog have no doubt noticed that the frequency of my posts have diminished.  The reality of the situation is that writing good blog posts takes time and right now the priorities in my life are such that the extra time for blogging is in short supply.    My time now is primarily consumed by my family.  I have two teenagers, both of whom are very bright and talented and one of whom is nearing the age of applying to colleges, which is now a full time job for the entire family, and I have older family members who need help dealing with the diseases of aging.

The reality of my current life stage is that I don't have time to dwell on how I feel about my reconstructed breasts, but this week I have allowed myself a few moments to reflect on this topic.  For the most part I don't think about my breasts, they have become part of who I am and the fact that they are different from the ones nature gave me is irrelevant.  At other times I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and what I see is not what I expect.  My reconstructed breasts, although very well done, are not the same; not in size, not in shape and not in location on my chest.  But what matters most is that these new breasts have given me the ability to return the focus of my life to what it should be, my friends and family, without constant fear of cancer.  This, I realize now, is a luxury that I once again take for granted.

I will continue to update this blog from time to time, although perhaps not frequently.  We do however update the Positive Results Facebook page with new studies, research, and other relevant links more frequently so if you have not yet become a fan of our Facebook page please do so here or through the link at the right.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2012,

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