My name is Brione, I’m 46 and come from a high-risk family. Several of my relatives were impacted by breast cancer, including my mother and auntie, who sadly passed away. Previously, I was unable to find out if I carried the gene, as you needed to have a living relative to compare it against. So, given my strong family history, at the age of 38, I chose to undergo a preventative double mastectomy to reduce my risk. Thankfully, further developments have allowed me to retest my genetic positioning, which will show if I’m positive for the BRCA gene mutation and find out what that means for the future of myself and my children.
Knowing I came from a high-risk family allowed me to manage my health by researching what I felt was essential to know and understand how it impacted me. In doing so, I’ve been well informed of my choices and what’s available to me for quite a while—this has helped me share the information with my family and ensure the focus is on family history, available options, and the impact having this knowledge can provide.
Being well-versed in health literacy has only positively affected my experience. You can look at what's given to you with more of an open mind. You’re able to use scientific information to reason your situation and deal without involving all the emotions. Having a BRCA diagnosis isn’t the end of the world; it just makes you better informed of how you can handle the next steps.
We need to make sure we aren’t overthinking the information we receive and look at it reasonably. This way, we can make an informed decision based on fact. Information is a wonderful thing, and we shouldn’t be scared of it—good or bad.
Along with information, you need a solid support network of people that will guide you and be in your corner with any decision you make, whether they agree with your choices or not. Sometimes, getting support from the people closest to you can be difficult because they don’t understand or fear how your decision may impact them. I had to block out many people who meant a lot to me to avoid their misunderstanding. I have no regrets about the choices I made for myself and my family.
Finding an organisation like Pink Hope a week before my surgery in 2013 was like a match made in heaven and where I wanted to invest my time. Along with my family, this community of strong and inspiring women would be crucial to getting me through the next stage of life.
Their unique mission resonated with me, and I loved the feel of such a supportive community. Ultimately, all I wanted was a purpose and something good to come out of the challenging times I’d been through. Over the last eight years, I feel I’ve impacted a greater network of people by sharing my story, information, guiding others and focusing on Pink Hope’s fundraising events.
Through these life-changing experiences, I’ve learned my biggest lesson— information is important and has given me purpose. When I lost mum to breast cancer, I was 22 and access to information was restricted back then. I’ve always been strong and determined, but this situation showed me just how much. Advocating for myself allowed me to be more meaningful in making an impact and making sure that my efforts are more focused on helping families like mine.
I want to make a difference and support other families affected by cancer. I want to ensure that our children grow up in a world where they don’t need to make decisions we’ve had to make, but if they do— that they have the power and knowledge to make the best ones for them.
To me, having purpose is giving something back with a clear goal in mind of helping others. It’s not about getting anything in return but knowing that in some way, what you’ve been through will make a difference to someone else.
My Message of Hope? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use your support networks and ask questions. As many as you need— if you doubt any information or something doesn’t sit right, get a second opinion. Our intuition should always be trusted, and there is nothing wrong with research and getting additional advice.