Gemma Moran – BRCA1 and my breast cancer prevention journey

Author: Gemma Moran - May 3, 2022

Gemma Moran

 

Gemma Moran and her sister, Laura Quigley, have been fabulous supporters of Prevent Breast Cancer for a number of years.

Here, Gemma tells us about her breast cancer prevention journey, and why our charity is so important to her and her family.

As a child, I knew that my paternal grandmother had died of cancer at quite a young age. Then, as were growing up we devastatingly lost two of my Dad’s sisters Kath and Josie to breast and ovarian cancer. At the time and for many years after,  I just considered it a tragedy, a sad and cruel fate that had happened to our lovely family. However, as time elapsed the question of BRCA1 defective cancer gene rose to the surface and doctors began to identify the connections. To have lost all these beautiful people to a particular type of cancer at such a young age began to ring alarm bells.

As a wider family we were referred to the family history unit at The Nightingale Centre. After a number of conversations had taken place, it was decided that Dad would go for the gene test to see if he was carrying the BRCA1 gene.

This was in May 2015 and Dad’s test result was positive, he was also a carrier of the defective gene. This then propelled me and Laura from a 1 in 4 chance of carrying the gene to a 1 in 2 chance. Our screening was increased to reflect this and we had more regular check ups.

I then had the decision to make about having the gene test, with my family complete and with three beautiful daughters I decided it was important to know the answer to this rubbish question!!

So in the December of 2015 I decided to go for my BRCA1 gene test, fast forward to the 12th January 2016 and my result was positive, I was also a carrier of the defective gene.

I cried and cried some more, then decided to pull myself together, take action and to turn this tough knowledge into something powerful.

My healthy ovaries were removed in March 2016 through keyhole surgery and a success. There was the early menopause to contend with, but a small price to pay. This was the first stage of the preventative surgery, stage two -the preventive double mastectomy was always looming, but I was in the 2nd year of my primary teaching degree (a very mature student!!) so I kept up the regular screening and checking any changes in my body, leaving this major surgery on the back burner for the time being.

My gorgeous little sister Laura had her second little girl in August 2016 and decided she too was now ready to have the gene test. This was now the December of  2016 and unfortunately whilst awaiting her gene test results, Laura found a lump. It was heartbreakingly triple negative breast cancer age 36!!

We knew we had a fight on our hands. Laura needed intensive chemo and with a 2 year old and a 6 month old baby, this was going to be tough. Made tougher by the fact my chances based upon Laura’s diagnosis had now rocketed to +95%. The preventive mastectomy was now a no brainer and it was no longer a decision but a necessity.

So, 13th March 2017 8.36am, I’m being wheeled down to the theatre for my double mastectomy. this was my chance to stop this cruel disease before it got to me. Fortunately for me, the power was in my hands.

My operation was a success, immediate reconstruction, implants in place. The chest drains weren’t great but after two weeks I was so grateful they were removed.

I did recover remarkably well but at the time, I felt it was a slow and frustrating recovery, mainly due to the fact I was unable to support Laura as I would have wanted to (thank God for our unbelievable parents), but I got through it and became stronger each day.

My close family and friends were absolutely fantastic, and my girls were shielded from any pain or the extent of my operation by a good wallop of blusher, a smile and some pretty hefty pain relief.

However, I still had the small matter of being in the final few months of my degree. I’d worked my socks off to become a teacher and wasn’t going to let the small matter of a double mastectomy stop me!

I completed my dissertation, ticked all the boxes and graduated with a 2:1 in primary education. The crowning glory was being the recipient of the outstanding achievement award at graduation.

Laura bravely fought and won. She is now recovering marvellously and getting stronger every day – a true warrior.

She’s also now an ambassador for Prevent Breast Cancer and working closely with the charity.

We have 5 beautiful daughters between us, so future research around the BRCA1 defective gene and the charity Prevent Breast Cancer is so, so important to our family.

So that’s me, my story, I consider myself incredibly lucky

Gemma has recently become involved with Bredbury St Marks Cricket Club, and we’re delighted that they’ve decided to support Prevent Breast Cancer throughout 2022, including having our logo on their new kit. You can read more about Prevent Breast Cancer being their charity of the year here. Keep your eye on both ours and the club’s social media for updates on the partnership, including a Pink Day on June 25th.

Thank you again to Gemma for sharing her inspirational story with us.

 

ABOUT PREVENT BREAST CANCER

Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease.

 

Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email info@preventbreastcancer.org.uk today.