Real Women. Real Stories: Genetics won’t stop me

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) There are a lot of factors that can increase a person’s chance for breast cancer. Mollie Smith is an average 22 year old woman. She’s a student at Grand Valley State University, participates in pageants, and is BRCA positive. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins, according to cancer.gov.

These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material. If a woman inherits a mutation in her BRCA genes, this greatly increases her risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer.

Mollie tells her inspiring story about being diagnosed with a BRCA mutation so young, and how nothing will stop her from living a full and meaningful life:

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Knowledge is power, and the more we share the knowledge of hereditary cancers, the more lives we can save.

Hi my name is Mollie Smith, I am 22-years-old and I am BRCA 2 positive. I found out that I was BRCA 2 positive when I was 19-years-old. I remember it like it was yesterday. There I was on a chilly October morning sitting in the genetic counselors office staring at a piece of paper that said POSITIVE. From that day forward my life had changed. That day I learned that I had up to an 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer in my lifetime. But this wasn’t my main concern. I was more concerned that my younger sisters may receive the same diagnosis as myself once they turn 18.

All of the sudden it seemed as if my life was moving in fast forward. My family had already been through a lot. My mother was preparing for her prophylactic mastectomy and my Aunt Lois had just beat breast cancer. This gene seemed like a death sentence to my family. However, I refused to accept this verdict and decided to do more research on the BRCA Gene mutation.

After receiving my results I felt very alone. I was a transfer student at a new University and I didn’t know of any college students with the gene mutation. That next fall, 2013, I decided to create an organization called BRCAn’t Stop Me at Grand Valley State University. This organization was a way for me to find others who have the gene mutation and to help them feel that they are not so alone with their new diagnosis. It quickly turned into a way for me to have a voice.

Before I knew it, I was sharing my story about BRCA, helping newly diagnosed individuals find their voice and helping young adults schedule appointments to speak with a genetic counselor. BRCAn’t Stop Me is the first collegiate organization in the nation to help young adults with the BRCA gene mutation and those who have a strong family history of cancer connect with other young adults going through similar experiences. I made it my mission to inform Grand Valley State University about BRCA gene mutations. I truly do believe that knowledge is power and that it can save lives.

 

Today, I am working with the Michigan Department of Community Health to expand BRCAn’t Stop Me to Universities’ throughout the nation. All of our proceeds raised are used to benefit BRCAn’t Stop Me’s Mission of prevention and early detection of hereditary cancers. Our Zumba for a Cure event is our largest philanthropy event where all of the proceeds made during this event are donated to FORCE for hereditary cancer research.

Our organization gives young adults a voice and also provides them with the proper knowledge about hereditary cancers so that they can make the decisions that are right for them. FORCE has been incredible and we are beyond blessed to have them on our side.

I have received great connections and support through the hereditary cancer awareness world. Alan Blassberg, Hollywood producer and producer of Pink and Blue the Movie, has acknowledged my organization and hard work.

My family and I are featured in this national documentary aimed to raise awareness of hereditary cancers. This documentary features multiple public figures such as Annie Parker, author of Decoding Annie Parker, and Kara DioGuardi, a well-known judge from American Idol.

I found a lump in my breast in October of 2014. It was at that moment that my BRCA gene mutation starting to heavily affect my life. After going from ultrasounds to MRI’s to sitting in a waiting room full of cancer patients I realized that this isn’t something to take lightly. One out of every 10 cases of breast cancer in females are hereditary.

Thankfully, this time, my lump was benign. Every six months I undergo breast MRI’s or physical breast exams to detect cancer at an early stage. For individuals like myself with the BRCA gene mutation surveillance, prophylactic surgeries and medications are all options one can choose to save their lives. I choose susurveillance at this time. Knowledge is power, and the more we share the knowledge of hereditary cancers, the more lives we can save.

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