There would be few people whose story better illustrates progress in breast cancer research than Kate.
Almost 50 years ago, Kate’s mum Kathleen died from breast cancer aged 42, when Kate was just eight years old. She left behind her three daughters, all of whom would go on to develop breast cancer – and survive.
Kate’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. The cancer was caught early and she had no further problems. In her early 50s, Kate’s oldest sister also developed breast cancer. Again, treatment was successful.
Looking to the future
It’s little wonder that Kate, the youngest of the three, has been vigilant, almost paranoid, about checking for early signs of breast cancer. Kate had had regular mammograms for breast cancer since her mid-20s. Then in 2007, just shy of her 50th birthday, a mammogram showed that Kate had high-grade ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a precancerous condition.
She took three months to research her options but, in the end, decided to have a double mastectomy – the option that gave her peace of mind after decades of living with the fear of breast cancer.
“The clear difference between me and my mum was that I was able to stop breast cancer in its tracks. Mum didn’t have that option,” Kate says. “When I was 25, I believed that if you get breast cancer, you die. Now, thanks to progress made, my daughter Hanne, is not fearful because her mum and two aunties have all had breast cancer and are healthy, living their lives to the max.”
Despite a lifetime living in the shadows of breast cancer, Kate has overcome the fear she once felt about her daughter’s future.
“Before I got involved with NBCF, I couldn’t bear to think what might happen to Hanne after all that our family has been through,” she says. “But now that I know so much about the research that NBCF is funding, I feel a lot calmer.”