What’s Your POV About ‘In the Family’?

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How much would you sacrifice to survive? When filmmaker Joanna Rudnick tested positive for the BRCA gene (the “breast cancer gene”), she knew the information could save her life. She also knew that she was not only confronting mortality at an early age, but would have to make heart-wrenching decisions about the life that lay ahead of her. Should she take the irreversible preventive step of having her breasts and ovaries removed, or risk developing cancer? What would happen to her romantic life, her hopes for a family? In the Family documents Joanna’s efforts to reach out to other women while facing her deepest fears.

In the Family airs on most PBS stations on Wednesday, October 1 at 10 PM. (Schedules vary, so check your local listings.)
One of the women Joanna meets is Linda Pedraza of Boston, who was ten when her mom died of ovarian cancer. Linda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 42, and she tested positive for BRCA. In the film, Linda is undergoing another round of treatment for metastatic breast cancer. She tells Joanna, “In spite of how awful it is to feel less than female, being alive is what matters. In retrospect… I would have had all those surgeries. It may not be the ideal life that you want, but it’s life.”

Poet Martha Haley of Chicago is a three-time breast cancer survivor and founder of Celebrating Life, a breast cancer support group for African-American women. She confronts head-on the fact that black women are much less likely to get genetic testing for BRCA, not only because of disparities in wealth and health care, but also because of the distrust many African Americans feel toward the medical establishment. Martha speaks out, urging women to get tested. “When you get diagnosed with breast cancer and you are part of a poverty-stricken community, it can be like, ‘Why should I even bother?’ I want to address that,” she says.

Joanna herself is struggling with her relationship with her boyfriend Jimmy and trying to navigate how the mutation affects her life, her future and her health. How long can she wait before taking action? At the same time, Joanna visits Myriad Genetics, who own the patent for the BRCA gene, to try to understand how a corporation can patent a gene.

What thoughts and feelings did you have when you were watching In the Family? What are the benefits and drawbacks of knowing that you have a gene mutation that can cause disease? If you were Joanna’s friend or sister, what would you want her to do and why? Should policies be developed to govern the genetic testing industry? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Ruiyan Xu
Ruiyan Xu
Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.
  • Caren Rudman

    FOREIGNID: 17072
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I have the BRCA1 gene and have had a hysterectomy. at first it was a tremendous loss and instant menopause at 39 was devestating. However, after 2 weeks and my pathology result came back with precancerous cells in my phallopian tube and ovary. The surgery saved my life and that is when I took every hot flash as a reminder of how much power I had over my destiny of fear.

  • Vafa Talieh

    FOREIGNID: 17073
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    In March 2008, I found out that I had the BRCA1 gene. At first I didn’t realize what that meant until I did the research and spoke to various doctors. Then it became clear in my mind that for the sake of my children and husband I had to get a bilateral masectomy and my ovaries removed. And so on May 20th I had my surgery along with reconstruction of the breast. After the surgery I couldn’t believe what I had done and was very remorseful, until my doctor walked in and told my that they had found precancerous cells in my left breast. The same left breast that my mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer which return after 5 years to the other breast and had spread to her lymph nodes. Stem cell treatment and 3 bouts of chemotherapy and radiation saved her life, but her body is never the same again. Now at the age of 38 I live with hot flashes and 2 brand new breasts that I don’t recognize or feel. Am I grateful to have changed my destiny? ABSOLUTELY!

  • Irene Hernandez

    FOREIGNID: 17074
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    My sister and I we’re both diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer 9 months apart in 2006. She was 30 and I was 34. We both underwent bi-lateral mastectomies and months of chemotherapy. I have since found out that I am BRCA2 so my next step will be to remove my ovaries before I turn 40. My sister and I had been told for years that we we’re too young for mammograms. Even though we would tell our doctors about our family history: 4 aunts died of breast or ovarian cancer; 4 ucles died of prostate cancer; 5 first cousins with breast cancer: all on our fathers side. The doctors said that since our mother did not have cancer that we weren’t at any high risk. Boy they we’re WRONG! Me and my sisters first mammograms we’re our only mammograms. We both discovered our own lumps. I had just had a breast exam by my doctor about 3 months before I found the lump. My sister and I are living proof that early detection can save lives. We want young women under the age of 40 to know that if you have a family history of breast cancer you must insist on a mammogram or MRI. You must be your own advocate! By the way my lump was not visible on my mammogram. It wasn’t until they performed the ultrsound that they could see it….
    Watch my video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hiRFAamvGQ
    http://www.myspace.com/irenedelatorre72

  • Candy Watt

    FOREIGNID: 17075
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 20 years old. I had a subcutaneous mastectomy with reconstruction of my right breast. My left breast had to be augmented at the same time due to my small size. ( I weighed all of 95 lbs. at the time.) I was fortunate that the type of cancer I had does not spread beyond the tumor it was confined to, the tumor just gets bigger. It wasn’t until I was in my 40′s that I considered genetic testing as I was considering have a tubal ligation. I did the test after talking with my husband and we both decided it was worth it. With my history and my grandmother having died of ovarian cancer, I was determined to know my risk. I was fortunate to test negative for the gene, but if it had been positive, I would have not hesitated to have my ovaries removed and possibly my left breast. I have a seventeen year old daughter whom I have discussed this with at length. I am glad I could tell her that her risk was low of having it too. I am thankful for the technology and am sad that so many women who could benefit may never get it due to lack of insurance.

  • Elisbeth

    FOREIGNID: 17076
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.
    Very moving film, very well done. Kudos to Joanne Rudnick!
    I was personally troubled by the complete lack of knowledge of cancer prevention cures and cancer cures that are not known about in the mainstream, and of course denied by mainstream medicine. (Where would the multi-billion dollar cancer industry be if you could cure yourself of it at home, at negligible cost!)
    If I were Joanne Rudnick (and others like her), I would investigate Graviola–a South American root that is 10,000 times stronger than radiation when ingested, only affecting/kiling cancerous cells, leaving all other cells completely unaffected. This medicine is sold in the U.S, for about $20/mo. supply, and has absolutely no side effects. You can learn about it at graviola.com, and order it from there. My sister has cured herself with it of her “uncurable” cancer with the Graviola regimen and the Kangan Water Machine. The latter is a highly alkaline water producint machine which cures all manner of diseases–since disease of all sorts cannot live in an alkaline body environment. They thrive in an acidic body. Check them out folks. These things work–against cancer, diabetes, rheumatism, arthritis, etc. Just don’t bother asking your doctor about them…first, they won’t know about them (although the Kangan Water is used in 90% of Japanese hospitals!), and there is no second….
    Good luck Joanne…hope you get to read this.

  • christina

    FOREIGNID: 17077
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    joanna,
    a very moving, personal look at you and so many inspiring women. i admire your courage, strength and your creativity as well. i was angered by the founder of myriand’s response to the cost question. it’s high time he lower the cost of the test. after watching your story, i was still torn by what i would do. i would be partial to the surgery, because it could mean drastic differences in the way you live the rest of your life. it seems your options would be so much more limited if you didn’t. i don’t know if i have any sort of mutated cancer gene. my aunt and cousin had breast cancer. when linda from your documentary said, i can’t believe that we’re removing body parts to take care of this, i felt very sad and angry for all that women must deal with. but for her sake and all those before her and all those fighting for the cause, i will too, fight to support, to maintain the strength. thank you again joanna.

  • Lisa

    FOREIGNID: 17078
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I was changing channels and caught the last 15 minutes of the documentary. I stopped when I heard BRCA. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer last year, The Doctor’s wanted to do the BRCA test on me and my girls, but because I didn’t have insurance I couldn’t afford the testing. I am 37 years old, I went through my surgery, chemo and now almost done with radiation. I am the first in my family to have any type of cancer. As a mother of 2 girls who are teenagers, I worry constantly, if I passed this gene on to them. To hear that this gene was patened just made me feel like it’s an opportunity to make money and not make it affordable to anyone who could take this information and make decisions on how they will handle it if they were positive for the gene mutation. There is so many women out there that when they find a lump they just turn a blind eye to it and just assume it may be a cyst or just chalk it up to nothing. If they had the BRCA and if it were positive then they may take it more serious to do the self examinations or get the mammograms done. There also is issues as for people who don’t have insurance and just don’t want to go for the testings because they can not afford it. That was my case, I found the lump and my friend called all the places that were giving free mammograms, which happened to be our Free Clinic in town. Thank god for the Susan B Komen foundation for giving them the grant to help me go through my ordeal. Hoping one day that the BRCA will be more affordable for everyone, this documentary was such an important issue and hope it is replayed

  • Kathryn Graham

    FOREIGNID: 17079
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Joanne, this was VERY moving and informative. You deserve the highest praise for this film. I hope you have moved on from your boyfriend in the film. He was much too selfish and shallow to understand what you were doing. Some men want to diminish a woman’s passion for anything outside of the relationship. I could see early on that he was not rising to your level of compassion and intellect. You go girl!

  • Rebecca Steichen

    FOREIGNID: 17080
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Joanna,
    First of all congratulations on the film. You are a true inspiration!! For the many woman that have commented already, and to the countless other anonymous, you are a an inspirtation.
    From your influence on the Genetic Nodiscrimitory Act, to the fact that you have documented your invigorating experience on camera. I caught about an hour and a half of the documentary and im so thankful that i did.
    At the very end, after the documentary was over, you talked about how you have become less afraid/worrysome (im not sure of the word) of the BRCA gene; not about getting the cancer, but about the stigma that is associated with breast cancer. I do not have personal experience with breast cancer or ovarian cancer; nor do i know of any family members, friends or acquantinces with this disease.
    So breast cancer has been kind of a distant concern to me. I started hearing about breast cancer probably around the age that i was 10. Every year since then i can recall more and more commonly hearing the word breast cancer and hearing of personal stories.
    I am now 18, almost 19 and i am just now understanding the effects of this monstrous disease. I did however have a brother that died at the age of 5 of a brain tumor, but each type of cancer is so different as i have come to understand tonight. I had no idea that a cancer GENE actually existed. Mind boggeling to me since it was discovered all the way back in 1990.
    I am so thankful that there is more and more awareness and advocates like you taking the responsibillity or educating the American public and who ever else is lucky enough to hear of your and the other countless amazing women’s stories. But there needs to be more. You have inspired me and changed the way i think about breast and ovarian cancer. It’s so much more than “keeping the breasts”, as i have come to understand tonight, thanks to you and your documentary. I thank you so much for that, and you have my upmost respect. I can honestly say that you have become a role model for me.
    I wish you all the best of life, since i don’t believe in luck.
    I hope that you continue your legacy, its an amazing journey and thats just a small inkling of the your whole experience. Thanks again.
    peace.love.unity.respect.
    (sorry for the book)

  • Joan

    FOREIGNID: 17081
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thank you Joanna for this most powerful film and your courage in sharing such intimate struggles. It has forced me to rethink the genetic testing route for my family.
    In 2006 at age 50, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer stage IIIC. I am the mother of three daughters ages 28, 25 & 16. I also have one granddaughter, age two. I’m in my third reoccurrence and currently undergoing chemo. The film did a strong job of presenting the complexities of knowing you carry this gene and it’s impact on dating, having children, living with the knowledge and how it shapes so many aspects of life most people take for granted.
    To date, my husband and I haven’t talk too much with our girls about genetic testing. They know it’s available but haven’t shown an interest in testing themselves. I haven’t been tested but because of this film now think both my husband and I should get tested but not tell the girls until we have our results. This would be of benefit only to our youngest daughter. The older two are mine from a previous marriage and so would still need to get tested. I am the only known breast/ovarian cancer patient in my family, but both my mother-in-laws were breast cancer surviviors.
    Again, Joanna, you made a wonderful film and thank you so much for sharing your struggles and bringing awareness about the gene, testing and how to live the knowledge of the results. You are truly an inspiration.
    I wish my local station was showing this film more often!

  • http://www.itrunsinmyfamily.com Brandon Welch

    FOREIGNID: 17082
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Great show. There is a new website coming out soon that will allow people to track their own family health history online for free. Awareness is vitally important to disease prevention, the goal of the website is to make people be more aware of their health risks early enough. The website is http://www.ItRunsInMyFamily.com.

  • Rachel

    FOREIGNID: 17083
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I’m so glad this is coming out. I was diagnosed with breast cancer Thanksgiving 2006. I was just plain lucky they found it when I went in to check out what was actually a benign lump. The BRCA1 diagnosis came 3 months later after I’d already had a lumpectomy and started chemo. It took so long because my father did the test first – his mother had died at 37 of breast cancer. Also my Dad lives in Israel where they’ll do the test for free. It cost us a fortune we could ill afford. I had bilateral mastectomy, oopherectomy, hysterectomy and also a reconstruction. It was all awful. All I can say is that I’m through it now, and I know I made the right choice. My sister has since tested positive for the gene and had her ovaries out, but I have a 19 yr old daughter, and 2 nieces and I worry about them.

  • http://www.inthefamilyfilm.com IN THE FAMILY

    FOREIGNID: 17084
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    All,
    the IN THE FAMILY team cannot thank you enough for sharing your incredible stories with us on POV. PLEASE be sure to check out the OFFICAL website for IN THE FAMILY, inthefamilyfilm.com.
    There are forums to share your story on our site, as well as an incredible depth of resources to find on our RESOURCES page, vetted and supported by the National Institutes of Health.
    Also, on inthefamilyfilm.com, you can find a map with screenings near you and new photos and videos from the filmmakers.
    You can also learn how to host your own screening of IN THE FAMILY, donate to Martha Haley or the Linda Pedrazza Memorial Scholarship Fund, and buy our DVD.
    Thanks for checking us out!

  • Kelly Motz

    FOREIGNID: 17085
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am an ovarian cancer survivor having been diagnosed at stage 3-C back in June of 2006. I had debulking surgery and chemo and have had one recurrence already and still have tumors on my liver that are “stable.” I have a great quality of life and most friends have put the fact that I have the “big C” out of their minds since I look well.
    After thinking on my family history I decided to get tested and was not surprised at all that I am BRCA 1 positive. I too was told that since my mother had not had cancer nor any sisters, (I have NO sisters and 3 brothers) I did not have an increased risk.
    I always felt this was wrong and was diligent to have check ups and exercised regularly and ate a healthy diet. A LOT OF GOOD THAT DID ME!! If I had known that I carried the gene I would have had my ovaries removed and dbl mastectomies years ago and could have avoided all this.
    I loved the show. My daughter has been tested and we are awaiting her results. She has a 7 month old daughter and the thought that I have “given” this to them just kills me. The emotional aspects of testing were very poignant in the film. When Joanna said that “most women don’t survive ovarian cancer” it made me cry, even though I am very aware of that.
    Thanks you and God bless you all.

  • Stacy Williams

    FOREIGNID: 17086
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Joanna,
    Thank you for your wonderful film. After seeing it last night, I woke up worrying terribly about you and the others. I am an older woman who has not been diagnosed with any cancers as of this moment. As we know, that could change at any time and we all have mutant cells in our body. Please don’t feel tainted or less of a woman because my mutant genes may just not have a marker that is identified at this point in time.
    I realize that I have not had to go through what you have in your young life, but as an older woman looking back I have this to say: Please Joanna have the surgeries. LIFE is what matters. Many healthy women have very little feeling in their breasts or nipples as it is, which apparently that male doctor did not know or convey, so please don’t let that be a consideration. There are many children in the world who need caring adults in their lives and although I realize that it is not the same thing, LIFE is what matters. Without it you can experience nothing. You have witnessed the pain giving birth to a child who carries the mutant gene can bring. Although menopause has its struggles, it is very freeing in many ways. You are a strong woman and can deal with what it brings as long as you have LIFE.
    I too hope that you have moved on from Jimmy, and I feel sure that you have. He is just not special enough for you. You are a beautiful person who deserves everything good. Thank you again for sharing these stories and this important information. -Stacy

  • Lynae

    FOREIGNID: 17087
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    My maternal grandmother died of breast cancer, and my mother is a breast cancer survivor. She insists that we don’t have the gene, that it was more environmental in their cases, but since we can’t afford the test, who knows? I am terrified, having already nursed my first husband through 7 years of lymphoma until he died when I was just 30. Maybe it would be nice to have children now that I am remarried (I’m 37 now), but here’s the thing… Never once, in this entire documentary, was it ever suggested that we should be responsible about ending the mutation. Why would Joanna want to have children? After seeing my husband struggling with cancer, and after Joanna’s seeing her mother’s struggle, why would anyone want their child to see their own illness and possible death, as Linda’s daughter had to do? And on the other hand, if the preventative surgeries work, why would anyone want to pass this mutation on to another human being? It seems incredibly irresponsible and selfish to me. I am thinking that if I do make the choice to have children, it will only be through adoption, regardless of whether I am capable of producing my own. And maybe, just maybe, the cost of the genetic testing will come down before my mother (now almost 70) passes away…

  • http://cetconnect.blogspot.com Rachel

    FOREIGNID: 17088
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I think this is such an important topic for women of all ages, and I’m really glad P.O.V. went into such depth on the BRCA gene. I knew little about this before, and it’s so relevant. Though I haven’t seen the entire episode, I’ve DVRed it and will be watching it this weekend. Not only is it timely for breast cancer awareness month, but like other P.O.V episodes, it seems to be very straightforward. Though I’m only in my early 20s, I know my mother is quite concerned about breast cancer, especially after having found a lump several years ago. It was harmless, but definitely still scary for us. So, thank you P.O.V. for putting this together.
    Joanna did a phone interview with the PBS station I work for because we did an installment of our local program, Focus, that coincides with this POV. It was so inspiring to hear from her and the guests on the show who came to tell us their stories. If anyone is interested in it, you can check it out in one of my recent blog entries. Many kudos to all of these women.
    I’ve also enjoyed reading your comments. My thoughts are with all of you beautiful, strong women!

  • Anne Brunelli

    FOREIGNID: 17089
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Dear Joanna,
    Thank you so very much for this beautiful, touching and honest film. I have watched almost all of it twice, and came to the POV website to find out when my sister might see it as well. I had a lumpectomy for breast cancer 7 years ago, and my sister has just had a partial mastectomy as well. Our mother died of metastatic breast cancer 10 years ago, and her sister also had the disease. Oddly enough, I tested negative for the BCRA 1 & 2 genes, but my sister will now be tested, while we wait for pathology results from her surgery, and I am so thankful to you for all the additional light your film has shed, on decisions she may have to make, if she does test positive. This film is an incredibly brave and vitally important piece of work, that may help countless women to understand how to contendwith their genetic predisposition to cancer. I applaud your courage as a film maker, and thank you for your gentle, yet frank and thorough approach to the subject matter. There are many beautiful and inspiring people in your film, and you are certainly one of them. Your compassion and gentle touch are a big part of the reason the stories of your subjects come so beautifully to life. I’m sure there is, and will be, great love coming to you, in the years to come. I wish you great success and happiness, wherever the path should take you.
    Best Regards,
    Annie

  • Keith

    FOREIGNID: 17090
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thanks for a moving and informative program. I think that the cartoon segment illustrating the genetic and environmental factors that result in cancer was a very helpful visual aid. You should post it on youtube and elsewhere.

  • Susan Davis

    FOREIGNID: 17091
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    For anyone at high risk or those who already tested BRCA positive, please check out the website of FORCE-Facing Our Risk of Breast Cancer, Empowered, at http://www.facingourrisk.org. The information and message boards are outstanding. They have a conference once annually, next one on May 15-16, 2009. Anyone new to attending will walk away stunned, with information provided by outstanding doctors and researchers who are passionate about BRCA mutations. There are also local chapters – check in your area on their website.
    In my family, 17 people are involved: 4 died from breast and/or ovarian cancer, 12 living family members have tested, 9 of which are positive, 3 negative, and 1 breast cancer survivor has not tested. When I was diagnosed with Stage II B breast cancer, I started the “test” ball rolling. You have a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to children. My mother passed it on to all 3 of hers, and we passed it on to 6 out of 7 of our children. I recently met a woman with Ovarian cancer, BRCA I positive, who stated no one in her family has had cancer. As it turned out, it was her father who carried the mutation. In our family, 3 males have the mutation.
    For those who can’t afford the test…you may want to check locally to see if any hospital or organization is doing a study.
    To my dear friend, Joanna, you’ve done the world a favor in sharing your film on this topic. No longer is it going to be in the closet. Together, we will all stand up and fight. If anyone out there has not seen the film, check your local PBS stations for scheduling.
    One last message to both Joanna and Beth, thank you, thank you, thank you, for making my son, Richard, a part of your film. My children have always been the light of my life. Instead of shrinking from their postive BRCA results, they did the opposite – and got involved. Losing my Richard has been the most devastating heartache I have ever felt, but you and Beth have given me a priceless gift by remembering him with a tribute in your fantastic film. I will be forever grateful for having met you both, and will always consider you two as part of my “family.”
    I see only good things in your future, and the world is a better place because of people like you and Sue Friedman, of FORCE.

  • S. Tobin

    FOREIGNID: 17092
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    The documentary did a wonderful job of highlighting the personal and emotional journeys of women who have family histories of breast and ovarian cancer. However, a few aspects of the film concerned me. First, the percentages of risk being given to these women by their physicians seemed extremely high, whereas most physicians estimate risk of breast cancer for BRCA1 mutation carries in the range of 50-80%. Perhaps the documentary was filmed in the early days of BRCA testing, when estimates were based on the very high risk of breast cancer among the exceptional families whose samples made it possible to find the BRCA genes. Alternatively, it may be that the physicians in the documentary were citing numbers given out by Myriad Genetics. Second, women who carry BRCA mutations have the opportunity to select mastectomy or oophorectomy or both, but the documentary did not seem to separate these options or to inform women that oophorectomy alone seems to lower both ovarian cancer risk (by about 90%) and breast cancer risk (by about 40-50%; mastectomy lowers breast cancer risk by about 90%). Third, the very nice little cartoon showing inheritance of chromosomes could have shown inheritance of a single chromosome from each parent, rather than a pair. This could have emphasized the 50-50 probability of inheriting the chromosome carrying a mutation from a parent who is a carrier. But these are merely tweaks…the documentary certainly fulfilled its mission of portraying courageous women facing challenging choices as individuals and as family members.

  • S Gunder

    FOREIGNID: 17093
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I thought the film was excellent. Joanna did an amazing job, and I was jumping up and down when Olga’s test came back negative.
    However, the guys in the bar really turned me off. Hey, you’d better get married because you get your breasts removed and end up with tattoos for nipples. Um. Thanks. How sensitive. Will they laugh that hard at their daughters, if they pass along the mutation to them?

  • Madeline

    FOREIGNID: 17094
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Bravo Joanna, you are wise and beautiful inside and outside…
    You have opted for a “self-journey” and the discovery of self is amazing!
    Blessings to you today and all your tomorrows…..

  • Marie

    FOREIGNID: 17095
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am in the mist of watching this film and had to pause to post this. It is a wonderful film, but I am angry right now watching the part where 2 Henkl sisters get their results with the repeated message from the genetic counselor and researcher, “it’ll be alright.” I find it hard to believe medical professionals are saying this. I had breast cancer, then genetic testing and was + for BRCA1. I told my sisters, who both got genetic testing. My 32 year old sister tested +. Despite wanting to ignore it, she entered a clinical trial for supposedly in-depth surveillance for bc and ovarian cancer. At age 34, between yearly trial appts., she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She is now 37 and nearing the end with metastatic disease. It’s not alright! And yes, the film did show Linda in a similar situation, but I am still in disbelief that medical professionals in this film are saying, “it’ll be alright.”

  • mlamothe

    FOREIGNID: 17096
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    My story is a little different, we start in January of 2008, my oldest sister (50) was diagnosed with DCIS. We were all stunned, as far as we knew there was no breast cancer on either side of our family. My dad was an only child and he did have a aunt that died of ovarian cancer, so my sister was encouraged to do genetic testing, she had her blood drawn and sent to the lab. One day she got a call from the lab saying that her insurance would not cover the test, her insurance company and only one other will not cover this test, so she declined , she could not afford the $3000.00 price tag of the test. Fast forward to July of 2008, my second sister (43) was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, we were all devastated by the news. How could this be, we had all worried about heart problems and stroke, but breast and ovarian cancer, the thought never crossed our minds. Sister #2 had the testing done, the two week wait was agonizing, she was positive for BRCA1. So sister #1 and I (41) had
    the test done, another agonizing two weeks, the results are in, we are all positive and apparently of Jewish decent( of which we had no inclination). I am happy for my sisters, because at least they know that it is not something that they did or did not do to get cancer, but that its all in the family. My sisters are doing well, sister #2 going through chemo treatments, with another 12 weeks added on because she is gene positive, but I have no doubt that she will be a survivor. We have all been blessed with our children before this whole thing was even a part of our lives, I thank god for that and I can’t imagine having to struggle with the decision that Johanna has to make. It makes me so angry that the insurance company would not pay for the original test, had they, would my sister have been spared chemotherapy, would they have been able to catch it in an earlier stage? We can only imagine that they would have. I have decided to go ahead with the prophylactic bi-lateral mastec
    tomy and I will also be having my ovaries removed, I will be seeing the breast surgeon next week, hopefully all goes well, I am scared though. I just can’t see at my age waiting and wondering everyday if this little bump that I think I feel is cancer. I what to thank you for making the film, it was strangely comforting to know that there are other families struggling with the same issue. God bless every family dealing with this mutation and I pray for all of us everyday.

  • Beth Kalb

    FOREIGNID: 17097
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    In the Family was the absolute best documentary on the subject that I have ever seen. I have been interested in this subject for over a decade and nothing has come close to clarifying every detail for those in need of info. Thank you Ms. Rudnick and to PBS for showing it. Bravo Bravo
    I wonder if is possible to find out about that petite young woman with the perfect reconstructed breasts with preserved nipples. Where is she and is it possible to get her surgeons name. Thanks again

  • Mavis A. O’Donnell

    FOREIGNID: 17098
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am four months post-op from a complete hysterectomy and double mastectomy. BRCA1 runs rampant in our family. My daughter was negative, son was positive. I find the recovery long and difficult but have never said, I shouldn’t have. Seeing “In the Family”, made me more sure that I have done the right thing. Our family is in New Brunswick, Canada and apparently we are a rare case due to the fact that our numbers are so high. One family had a mother and 3 daughters all die of ovarian cancer due to this gene. I found the story last night (Oct. 3rd) on MPBN just by accident. I am so glad I saw it.

  • becky bernat

    FOREIGNID: 17099
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I have not yet seen the film, but I did want to reply to several of the posters above. To the poster who talked about not wantting to pass this gene on – thinking her only option is adopting – not true, if you are not against genetic testing and abortion. It might be a horrible thought, but if you are afraid to bring a child into the world who may carry this mutation,(and a possibility of seeing your beautiful young daughter die of breast cancer) it’s possible to have your fetus tested and then, if positive, you can decided what to do. The extreme would be in vitro fertilization and selective preganancy but if you are risk averse anyway, this has its own problems. You could get lucky and have a BRCA mutation free fetus (no guarantee everything else is ok genetically though!). Secondly, for everyone who thinks this is “genetic destiny” I strongly disagree. If you look at what these genes do (repair DNA) it is logical to think that these mutations only predispose to a toxin- induced disease such as cancer. The more toxins assaulting the DNA, the higher the chance of eventually getting cancer with defective DNA repair. From the few studies looking at this, I believe this to be the case (more toxins today = more BRCA related cancer and more cancer in general). There are not many studies of this sort though, most focus strictly on the genetics ad nauseum. If all of you look at your family histories, you might notice a trend toward younger and younger women in later generations getting this disease (present day compared to several generations ago). So the best thing for BRCA carriers and other women to do is advocate for removal of chemical toxins from our environment – clothes, household products, building materials, energy sources, pesticides, plastics, estrogen mimicking compounds etc etc etc. Preventing the disease is so much HARDER than treating it, but something that would be beneficial to the entire world in the long run, women with breast cancer genes as well as all other humans and living things.
    I look forward to seeing this documentary.