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10 years after his breast cancer and BRCA diagnosis, Roger fundraised and ‘celebrated being alive’ by abseiling down Spinnaker Tower, in Portsmouth.
Here, he talks about genetic testing, why it’s important and what it’s meant for him and his family.
I’m now 84 – I turned 84 on the day I abseiled down the Spinnaker Tower to raise money for Breast Cancer Now. In essence, I celebrated being alive. It was an exhilarating, adrenaline-filled challenge.
Dave, my son-in-law, and I ended up exceeding our target, with a sum of around £2,945 (once Gift Aid was added).
Over the years, I’ve been an engineer at both a nuclear power station and a desalination plant in Hong Kong. When I returned to the UK, I decided to train afresh to start a career in law.
My breast cancer story is an unusual one – not just because I’m a man, but also because of how lucky I was to discover the cancer in the first place.
Nearly 10 years ago now, I accidentally walked into a tightly stretched rope in the garden, holding up a fence in the storms. It hurt a lot more than I thought it should, so I did a bit of a self-check. I felt some lumps under the surface and saw a doctor about them the next morning. He sent me for a biopsy and a mammogram – an interesting experience for a chap.
Within a short time, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, sent in for a mastectomy and given my first packet of tamoxifen, to take every day for 10 years. A few months later, I had genetic testing and found out that I have the BRCA gene, an inherited gene which makes cancer much more likely.
Around the same time as my diagnosis, my cousin emailed to say that he had prostate cancer – sadly, this is what my father died from. My cousin thought about how many family members had been affected – two aunts on my father’s side had also passed away from cancer.
After some thought, my cousin and I both decided to get a genetic test and found out that we each carried the mutation called BRCA2.
Yes, my diagnosis meant that my children may have inherited it and that, if they did, my grandchildren may have it too.
My 2 adult children got tested pretty quickly and found out that one carries the faulty gene. As for my grandchildren, they need to decide whether to be tested. They’re young, and cancer research is moving at a fantastic pace, so I’m hopeful for their future, yet mindful that all the research and required care do come at a cost – and a lot of funding is needed.
I’d recommend genetic testing to anyone with a strong family history of cancer. I advised my children and grandchildren to get tested, so that they can be more knowledgeable about their own position.
If you’d like to learn more about genetic testing, see our useful guidance.