A Mother Gives Thanks for Hereditary Cancer Testing


After working at Myriad Genetics for more than 20 years, I have been fortunate to see many examples of how our employees’ efforts have truly improved the lives of individuals and families.

Recently, one of the most heartfelt letters of my career arrived from a New Jersey mother named Carrie. She wrote, “Breast and ovarian cancer haunted my dreams and interrupted my daily activities. Thoughts of these diseases jumped into my mind when I exercised, ate, read, worked and even spoke out loud.”

As Carrie explained in her letter, she has a long family history of breast and ovarian cancer, having lost her mother to ovarian cancer at 62 and her grandmother and great-grandmothers to breast cancer. These events caused her fear and anxiety and resulted in her “dragging her feet for years” when it came to getting tested for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Carrie simply was afraid of learning the results of such a test, fearing the worst. Her emotions and initial response are very common. Eventually, Carrie decided that she needed to know one way or another and called Myriad for assistance, including how she could afford the testing. Linda, one of our patient support team members, worked with Carrie and her healthcare professional throughout the process to get her testing completed.

“Having my BRCA1 and BRCA2 sequence test was one of the hardest and most worthwhile things I have done for my health and the health of my children,” she wrote in her letter. “It really just struck me this morning as I exercised – fearing the worst is not something that overcomes me anymore. In fact, I don’t think I’ve thought much about developing these diseases since I learned the results of my test – which was Good News!”

“So thank you to you and your team, not just for helping me afford the test, but for making my days much lighter, focused and happier.”

I decided to share Carrie’s story at this time because so many families are preparing to gather together for the Thanksgiving holiday. An unfortunate fact is that too few people understand their family’s history of cancer, which can help them make a potentially life-changing decision like the one that improved Carrie’s life and better informed the healthcare decision-making of her children. Carrie’s story – and many others like hers – demonstrate that hereditary cancer testing is often an empowering, rather than disheartening, experience that improves individual lives and the lives of those close to them.

When you gather with those relatives you so rarely see all at once during this holiday season, consider taking a moment to just ask what they know about your family’s history of cancer. You may also want to take and then encourage your family to take our hereditary cancer quiz, and share the results with one another. It is an important and potentially life-changing conversation that every family should have. It may also be the best way to give thanks this holiday for all of your blessings, especially your family.

Warm wishes to you and yours.

Note: Carrie’s name was altered to preserve her privacy.