After losing her cousin to ovarian cancer, Christina underwent genetic testing and found out that she carries the BRCA 1 gene mutation. Being BRCA+ greatly increases her risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer. Empowered with this knowledge, Christina was able to take action with preventative surgeries to ensure that she is around for her children for many more Christmases to come…
"I don’t need to tell you how important Christmas is to families. It’s a time to come together with your loved ones – to eat, laugh, drink, give gifts and fall asleep in front of the telly together. For me, it’s always busy. I have a large family and Christmas often involves squeezing in seeing them all! But two years ago, there was a face missing from the festivities; my dear cousin’s life had been lost to ovarian cancer. It had developed rapidly because neither she, nor her GP, had realised her symptoms were signs of the disease. Before this devastating loss, none of us had ever even heard of the hereditary BRCA gene mutation, or knew much about ovarian cancer in general.
My life changed after finding out that I was BRCA positive. I knew I had to do everything within my power to be around for my kids Alfie, 7 and Lily, 5. With them in mind, I chose to make the difficult decision to have preventative surgery. I've had a bilateral mastectomy with breast reconstruction and had my fallopian tubes removed. I was lucky to be given potentially life-saving information that allowed me to make these choices, but not every woman at risk of having a BRCA gene mutation is offered testing. This needs to change.
More than one in six cases of ovarian cancer are linked to BRCA mutations and preventing these hereditary cases could save more than 1,000 lives each year in the UK alone. Not to mention the countless lives lost to other cancers a BRCA gene mutation puts you at a higher risk of, like breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer.
"With your support, we can continue to work towards a world where every family can successfully prevent hereditary ovarian cancer"Christina Pacitti
When I was told I was BRCA+, I didn’t know where to turn. I finally found, and now run, a BRCA group in Edinburgh with my friend Abby, who I met through the group. I try to have a social media presence, both on forums and through my blog; I am so glad that I am able to give hope and support back to the BRCA+ community.
My biggest fear is that my children will inherit the BRCA gene mutation from me. I hope that by the time they are old enough, testing and support will have advanced enough to help them make decisions to protect their futures.
I’ve learnt to cherish every moment with my family and I’m looking forward to creating the perfect Christmas for them. We make a day out of choosing the perfect tree and spending the whole day decorating our home together. On Christmas Eve, when we’re snuggled up in our PJs, admiring our beautiful tree, I’ll be thinking how lucky I am to have been given the chance to provide my children more magical Christmases for years to come. Throughout the festive rush, mums are often the unsung hero. A star that shines brighter than the one that tops your tree. Many people never imagine that one year their mum could suddenly no longer be around to make Christmas magical. This could have one day been my family’s reality, had I not been empowered with the information that I was, and acted quickly.
Luckily, Ovarian Cancer Action is leading the way in acting on BRCA. This year, with your help, they have funded research to develop better treatments for ovarian cancer patients; campaigned to ensure the government implements an effective cancer prevention strategy and hold the NHS to account to make sure that every family has access to BRCA testing. With your support, we can continue to work towards a world where every family can successfully prevent hereditary ovarian cancer.
With your support, Ovarian Cancer Action can fund further research in the prevention of ovarian cancer so that families like mine can access sufficient testing.
Together we can take the next step towards a world where no family loses their mum, their Christmas star, to ovarian cancer."