When David Reid, 67, learned he was a BRCA2 gene mutation carrier, the news filled in a lot of blanks for him.
David’s youngest sister had passed away from metastatic breast cancer at the age of 46—just after confirming she was a BRCA2 mutation carrier and alerting the rest of the family. Six months later, another one of his sisters died at 55 from ovarian cancer after previously undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Their mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer previously, and when their father passed away, the family suspected he had had pancreatic cancer, which is also associated with a BRCA2 mutation.
“My mom was adopted, and both of my parents were only children, so it’s hard to know which one of them might have had the BRCA2 gene mutation—and it’s possible that they both did,” David said.
It turned out that David, along with five of his seven siblings, carried the BRCA2 mutation.
“I knew there was a 50 percent chance of having it when I got tested,” he said. “I was surprised, but I feel blessed to know. I take it one day at a time.”
David is regularly screened for BRCA2-associated cancers, including breast cancer. He gets annual mammograms, even when it means fighting for insurance to cover the screening.
“I want to live a long, healthy life,” he said about his diligence. “I want to see my grandchildren get married and have children—my great-grandchildren—if I can.”
David’s own three children have been tested for the BRCA2 mutation—two are carriers and one isn’t—along with many of their 13 cousins. At least eight members of that generation have the mutation.
David’s daughter, Margaret, 36, found out her BRCA2 status after giving birth to her first daughter.
“I’ve always believed knowledge is power, but having children changed the game and gave me an overwhelming sense of urgency,” she said.
Margaret and her husband decided to have two more children—all while her doctors monitored her for breast and ovarian cancers—and then she underwent preventative surgeries, including a double mastectomy, to significantly reduce her risk of BRCA2-associated cancers.
“The possibility of leaving my young kids without a mother was devastating,” she said. “For that reason, I’ve been aggressive with preventative surgeries while I feel healthy so I can make sure I’m here longer for my kids.”
Both David and Margaret credit research for empowering them to take control of their health and significantly reduce their risk of breast and other cancers.
“I do believe there will be a cure for cancer someday—because of research,” David said.
Read more stories from BCRF’s Research Is the Reason storytelling initiative here.
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