Testing positive for a BRCA2 gene mutation at age 25 led me to make difficult decisions about my health. But it also inspired my career and motivated me to become more active in my health care.
Balancing Motherhood and My Breast Cancer Risk
Knowing that I wanted to be a mom, I chose to manage my risk through frequent breast cancer screenings and healthy lifestyle choices rather than preventive surgery to remove my breasts or ovaries.
This decision hasn’t always been easy for me, though. Relying on mammograms or MRIs (a scan that creates detailed images of the tissues in your body) to find cancer early, rather than prevent it through surgery, creates fear and anxiety for me.
I sometimes found pregnancy and breastfeeding to be stressful because it was harder to screen for breast cancer during these times.
Still, I’m doing what feels right for me and allows me to grow my family. I am considering having preventive surgery after I have finished having children to reduce my breast cancer risk further.
Career Motivated by Cancer
When Marleah was 8 years old, she watched her mother, then 38, go through treatment for breast cancer. Her mother’s experience inspired her to understand and her own risk, and she learned that she has a BRCA2 gene mutation like her mom and aunt. To manage her risk, Marleah currently undergoes surveillance.
My connection to breast cancer inspired my career as a university professor. In my research, I work with women and men at higher risk for hereditary cancer to understand how uncertainty about their health affects them, such as by causing stress, fear, or anxiety. I look for ways to help these women and men cope with their emotions.
Making Informed Health Decisions
I am inspired by my mom, who had breast cancer at a young age. She says, “Make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time.”
These words have helped me actively participate in my health care, ask questions, and make difficult decisions about how to manage my breast cancer risk.
Marleah’s family history of breast cancer was her motivation for pursuing a career where she can be an advocate for herself and others at high risk. At 27, Marleah explains that understanding her risk has been an emotional journey, but also a good journey.
Marleah took steps to understand her risk for breast cancer because of her family history. She encourages young women with a family history of cancer to learn their personal risk.