PUBLISHED ON: 10 November 2020

After her mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, Jess discovered she has the altered BRCA1 gene, which increases her own risk of breast cancer. She set up the Jo Fine campaign in memory of her mum to spread awareness of genetic testing.

Jess is laughing with her mother as they sit on a bench outside

My mum’s diagnosis had a massive impact on my family 

My mum was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in late 2014, after her doctor found a small lump during a yearly routine check-up.  

Her initial breast cancer returned three times, firstly in the breast, then in her lungs, and then in her brain.  

It had a massive impact on my family. My siblings were very young at the time, so they didn’t fully understand what was happening. It felt quite isolating and lonely that I couldn’t talk to them about it.  

We tried to stay positive and determined 

My mum had multiple rounds of chemotherapyradiotherapy, a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy. She also tried adopting some lifestyle changes, such as organic and chemical-free diets. 

We are a very positive and determined family, which we maintained throughout mum’s treatment. We were always looking for new trials and treatments up until just before she passed away. 

I felt relieved when I found out I had BRCA1 

My mum found out that she had the altered BRCA gene, which put her at high risk of breast cancer. I was incredibly confused, as I had never heard of it before. 

I had only been exposed to the cancer world a few months earlier. I had no idea that cancers could be hereditary. My mum had heard of BRCA but couldn’t understand why it hadn’t affected her parents. We later realised my Grandpa was the carrier.  

With the encouragement of my mum, I applied to have genetic testing in November 2016. I took the test a few days after my 18th birthday, on 24 February 2017. 

I received my results in mid-April. They came back positive. I was strangely relieved. I felt grateful that I had found out at such a young age. It meant that I had time to discuss and think about my options.  

I’m setting up a BRCA campaign in memory of my mum 

Since finding out about the BRCA1 gene and experiencing my mum’s passing, I’ve started to work on creating the Jo Fine BRCA campaign. Its mission will be to shed light on the importance of genetic testing and hereditary cancers. By sharing my mum’s story, I hope to raise awareness and reach out to as many people as possible.  

I want to shed a more positive light on the BRCA gene – where people can embrace knowing about their genetics and be able to plan for the future. 

I believe knowledge is power  

My mantra is that knowledge is power. I believe that if my mum had been able to take the genetic test sooner, she might have been able to undergo surgeries that could have stopped the cancer from developing.  

It’s important to know if you’re carrying a gene like BRCA, as it can affect your treatment plan. It’ll also help you take control of the health of your family. Your parents, siblings and children have a chance of carrying the same mutation, putting them at an increased risk of cancer.  

 

You can find out more about genetic testing by visiting our information page.

Genetic testing