“My mother always talked to us of death so we would not be afraid. She knew the history of cancer in our family was more than just a coincidence. My grandmother, great grandmother and great aunt all died of breast cancer by the time they were 50. My mother developed breast cancer at 49, her sister at 59. Needless to say, while growing up there was a shadow of awareness that breast cancer was ‘in my genes’.”
Pieces of Me, by Veronica Neave, is a beautifully written and thought-provoking account of her journey from diagnosis of the BRCA2 ‘breast cancer’ gene mutation to her decision to remove her healthy breasts.
Performer, film director and mum, life for Veronica was always a little crazy and unpredictable. When she tested positive for the BRCA2 breast cancer gene the turmoil in her life reached a new high. The genetic test, combined with her family’s history, increased the probability of Veronica one day battling breast cancer to more than 85%. When her two sisters also tested positive for the gene, it seemed the deadly pattern was destined to continue.
“Until a few years ago, my family had never heard of the BRCA2 gene, and now it seems to be everywhere. It’s a bizarre predicament, dealing with the concept that it’s highly probable you’ll get cancer and making decisions on a future that may or may not happen, but could potentially kill you. I was confused and wondering just how much time I really had before fate took the decision away from me?” said Veronica.
The options on paper seemed simple: a lifetime of high maintenance testing, medication, or the more intrusive step of removing her healthy breasts, and possibly her ovaries too, in the hope of prevention.
As she unravelled the information of experts from across the medical spectrum, Veronica battled her own beliefs about sexuality, body image and the thought that her breast removal and reconstruction would be seen as cosmetic ‘improvement’ rather than a life-saving operation. One thing was certain. The science of genetic identification was expanding faster than cures or treatments and Veronica needed to make a decision now.
On one hand she had been forewarned of the potential risks, on the other, there was no certainty of prevention or a cure.
Along the way Veronica shares her choices, insights and fears as she untangles the different perspectives and advice, to eventually find her own way.