I lost my mom at a young age to breast cancer. My mom was diagnosed at 43 and died at 45 – I had just turned 24 several months before.

So, I always had a fear of breast cancer. I saw my mom go through chemo and witnessed firsthand how sick she got. My mom’s aunt had also passed away from breast cancer.

Based on this history, my doctor recommended that I start getting an annual mammogram 10 years prior to when my mom was diagnosed. So, at age 33, I had my first mammogram. For the first five years, my annual mammograms were normal.

That was, until about 10 years ago, when I was 38. My mammogram came back abnormal, so they asked me to come back to do an ultrasound. There were two areas of concern and so they did biopsies in the right breast (needle aspirations) and left two titanium markers so that future tests would show the areas of concern. Thankfully, everything was benign.

Things continued like that over the next few years. On three different occasions, I received a notification that I had clear mammograms, but that I had dense breast tissue.

So, due to my history and my dense breast tissue, it was recommended that I have a breast MRI. The kind of insurance I have requires committee approval for the cost to be covered. The request was denied because I had a clear mammogram. I didn’t pursue the MRI because I couldn’t afford to pay out-of-pocket.

A new doctor suggests MyRisk®

Last year, I had my annual mammogram and it came back clear. All good and clear.

A few months later, I had my annual OB-GYN appointment. I go to the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic “Pink Team,” which is a group of healthcare providers focused on women’s health. There was a new doctor at the practice, and it was the first time I’d seen her.

She impressed me when she took the time to review my family and medical history. She learned about my previous mammograms, dense breast tissue and biopsies. She learned about how my great-aunt and mom died of cancer and how many people in my family had cancer.

Based on this information, she recommended the MyRisk® Hereditary Cancer Test. She told me it was super easy and that she could send a link to my phone to answer questions about my family and medical history.

I had heard of genetic testing, but mostly in stories on entertainment shows and magazines about celebrities who had it done and the steps they had taken. I never really looked into it.

I figured it was way out of my price range. But the doctor explained that most patients pay $0 for MyRisk through insurance coverage. I was worried that mine wouldn’t cover it and, quite frankly, I wasn’t really sure why I needed to know my risk of getting cancer. My doctor explained that for most women, it simply meant further preventative steps – like in addition to getting an annual mammogram, you may also get an annual breast MRI every year, too.

So, I decided to take the MyRisk test. The doctor sent me the link and the screening questionnaire literally took five minutes for me to complete. Almost immediately, I got a result saying that I qualified for genetic testing. The doctor got the MyRisk kit. I filled a vial with spit and she sent it to the Myriad lab.

A shocking result

Shortly there after, I got a thick envelope in the mail. It was the results of the MyRisk test. The results were very easy to read … and absolutely shocking.

The MyRisk RiskScore® assessment gives a five-year and lifetime likelihood of developing breast cancer. My RiskScore indicated that I had 23.1% risk of getting breast cancer in my lifetime. I decided to call the doctor the next morning during a break at work, but my doctor called me before I had chance to call her. She had already put in a referral for breast MRI based on my MyRisk test results.

Things accelerated quickly from there.

The MRI showed two areas of concern in my left breast, so I had a 3D image scan that same week. A week later, they did two biopsies (a stereotactic biopsy and needle aspiration).

Five days later, I got the call. I had invasive ductal and lobular breast cancer.

The doctor told me to meet with a breast oncology surgeon ASAP. My insurance company moved quickly – they had everything approved within days.

When I met with the surgeon, I truly realized how bad it was. We talked for a while and then he asked a question that stuck with me. He asked how “we went from a clear mammogram six months ago to being lit up like a Christmas tree with cancer – 90% of your left breast is full of cancer.”

I was in shock. What did he mean 90%? I thought I had two spots. I began to panic. Fear really set in. The surgeon took his time to review the results of the MRI and 3D image scan with me. He showed me the cancer had spread from the nipple back to the ductal area. He showed me spots of cancer all over my left breast.

All I could think was, “somebody misread or missed it on the mammogram.” I asked the surgeon that question. The surgeon reassured me that it was a clear mammogram. He had reviewed not only the interpretation of the mammogram, but also read the mammogram himself. There was nothing missed; the mammogram just didn’t show the cancer. It was a very aggressive cancer that was spreading quickly.

He recommended I have surgery immediately. He said I needed a mastectomy of my left breast, but since this was an invasive cancer, he believed a complete mastectomy of both breasts was necessary.

To say I didn’t expect this conversation with the surgeon is an understatement. I was really expecting a lumpectomy and maybe the removal of some cancer spots. I didn’t have any idea how fast it could and did spread.

I had the total mastectomy five days later. The surgeon said he believed he removed all of the cancer. My treatment isn’t finished — I will have more tests and likely take medication for the next five years. I will be facing more surgery, including having my ovaries removed.

MyRisk® saved my life

Without a doubt, MyRisk saved my life. I have so much to live for. I am married to my middle school sweetheart – we’ve been together since we were in 8th grade. We have two wonderful children, a son who is 29 and daughter who is 27. We have three grandchildren – all under the age of six. We are a close-knit family; they are my whole world and I want to be there for them.

A moment with the surgeon continues to be on my mind – and is why I am sharing my story. It was his question: why get the MRI when the mammogram was clear? The answer was simple: MyRisk with RiskScore.

He said, “When you see the doctor who recommended MyRisk, thank her. If you had waited another six months, we wouldn’t be having the same conversation. You wouldn’t have the options you do today.”

That’s when I broke down crying. The kind of cancer I have is so aggressive that if I hadn’t had the genetic testing, I wouldn’t have had the other tests, the diagnosis and the surgery as quickly as I had. And it may have been too late to save my life.