PHOENIX - Actress Angelina Jolie’s revelation that she had both her breasts removed to avoid breast cancer is a surgery more BRCA 1 gene carriers are opting to have.
Valley mother Jennifer Debenedetti lost both her mother and grandmother to ovarian cancer.
She watched as her mother fought against the deadly disease for more than 13 years.
“She was just always very positive and she had over 200 chemo's and you would never know it, other than she was bald,” said Debenedetti.
Her mother left her and her twin sister a dying wish that they fulfilled shortly after her death.
“One thing she mentioned to my sister and I before she died is ‘please get a hysterectomy,’” said Debenedetti.
The twin sisters felt the fear of cancer was past them, until they were hit with the news that their mother tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene and so had they.
“That was difficult because I really thought I had dodged that bullet,” said Debenedetti.
Doctors told Debenedetti and her sister they had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer.
Suddenly her fight with fate was back on and she had to decide whether to remove her healthy breasts or play Russian roulette with her life.
“I knew I needed to do it...I knew Mom would want me to do it because otherwise I wouldn't be here. So in that sense it wasn't a hard decision, but the actual going through it scared me," she said.
But what scared Debenedetti even more was the thought of leaving her two young boys without a mother.
“My kids don't have to worry and a lot of times it was, 'Mom are you going to die like Grandma?' and now I could say, 'No I'm not,'" said Debenedetti.
She had her testing and mastectomy done through the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare .
She agreed to tell her story hoping it will urge other women to get tested and not to be afraid of living without breasts.
In fact, she now lives relieved that she doesn’t have to live in fear of death and she said she would do it all over again if she had to.
For your cancer genetic risk assessment, visit shc.org.
You can also learn about a support group at facingourrisk.org.
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