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Buddy Check 9: History of BRCA 2 gene mutation helps family fight breast cancer

6:24 AM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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CULPEPER, Va. (WUSA9) -- When you enter Christine Faulhaber's home in Culpeper, Va., you're welcomed with signs of hope and inspiration in every room.  Last fall, those encouraging words sustained her when she learned from her OB/GYN that she might carry the BRCA gene mutation.

Christine Faulhaber told us, "My mother had ovarian cancer 11 years ago and when I told my doctor, she talked to me about the gene and testing and how easy it was."

Faulhaber took the test in January. A month later her doctor had the results.

"She called me the night before to make sure I brought someone with me...I knew then that this wasn't a negative result," remembered Faulhaber.

Faulhaber was positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation, putting her at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Her mother, who was never told 11 years earlier while battling ovarian cancer that a test even existed, also found out she shared the same gene mutation with her daughter.

"It felt like a gift my doctor had given me and my family...a gift, by telling us about the gene so we could be proactive," shared Faulhaber.

Now she says she's going to "move forward and hopefully prevent ever having to go through cancer treatment."

Being proactive meant prioritizing. Helping her navigate through it all was the support group FORCE.

Because her own personal risk was higher for ovarian rather than breast cancer, the 36-year old wife and mother had a hysterectomy in April. Next winter, she'll have a preventive double mastectomy.

Faulhaber told us, "A normal person without this gene may have a 7% chance of breast cancer. With this surgery, I can get mine down to one or two. There's always going to be a chance but this will be significantly less."

However, not everyone, not even family agrees with her choices.

"My brother said having a hysterectomy without having cancer is like replacing a car's engine before it goes bad," said Faulhaber. "Some people don't get it and that's OK as long as they're aware of the gene."

She encourages other people to "just get the blood test; it's so simple and so informative."

She encourages other people to "just get the blood test; it's so simple and so informative."

Faulhaber is gradually making her 11-year-old daughter Amber aware of the family's medical history even though it's still a long way off before she has to worry about genetic testing.

Faulhaber said, "She has a long time until she's 25 and I want her to live life carefree and not think about that until she gets to an age that she can even make choices to increase surveillance at the very least and make sure she is protected."

We have teamed up with the non-profit FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, to raise awareness of breast cancer and to honor 20 years of Buddy Check 9. You can learn more about FORCE and see more footage from the movie "Decoding Annie Parker" here: http://www.wusa9.com/news/health/buddycheck9/default.aspx