Conversation between mother and daughter, Andrea and Eli, about testing for the hereditary breast cancer gene that runs in their family.
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The Listening Project
BBC Tees, Middlesbrough
Cockburn, Andrea, 1965- (female, sales assistant), Foster, Eli, 1992- (female, customer assistant)
Andrea wants her daughter Eli to take a simple test to see if she has the hereditary gene BRCA1 which her mother has and her mother's sister auntie Margy had. Her mum and her sister both developed breast and ovarian cancer in their early forties. Quite coincidentally Andrea's mum also died of cancer shortly after Andrea's surgery, it wasn't breast cancer but Andrea wondered if there was a link so she decided to have the test for the hereditary breast cancer gene. It turned out that she had the gene. The faulty gene came from her husband's side of the family and this meant that both Andrea's daughters, 21 year old Eli and 15 year old Amelia, could be carrying the gene. Andrea wants her older daughter Eli to take the test, Amelia can't until she's 18, so she can avoid getting cancer by having either a mastectomy and later her ovaries removed to reduce the chance of developing cancer. Her mum and sister both had double mastectomies and their ovaries removed but only after the cancer was diagnosed and it's the desire to avoid all the stress of chemotherapy, hair loss and potentially dying needlessly young, that mum wants to prevent. It's a hard thing for a young woman to have to contemplate but this is one conversation that could save a life. She can modify her lifestyle and wait for better clinical outcomes if she knows she has the gene, otherwise she can get on with her life with the same worries as everyone else. It's hard for a 21 year old to contemplate her own mortality and Mum keeps pushing for a reason why she will not take the test and it comes down to Eli not feeling ready to take it. Her body is her best feature and Mum acknowledges her breasts are her best feature. This is the first time they have sat down to talk about having the test and to know the truth is to acknowledge it and move on.
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