Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My BRCA (breast cancer gene) Story

It's been one of my goals to this year to have presence in the blogging, facebook, linked-in world. Of course, I'd rather be on my bike than in front of my computer any day and I kept telling myself "I'll just do it when I'm recovering from surgery." Well, I'm into my 3rd week of recovery of the 3rd surgery and the procrastination has to stop. It's almost November. As my old co-workers would say, "Just do it". Now.

To begin, I have to step back and tell my "BRCA"story, since it's dominated so much of my life this year. Some of you know it. Others don't. Somehow it is connected to the art I will yet make and certainly to the lack of art over the past year.

In 2008, my mother was diagnosed with an aggressive stage 3 breast cancer just a few months after a CLEAN mammogram and learned she carried a genetic mutation, which explained the generations of cancer in our family. We all took the DNA blood test and I too inherited this breast cancer mutation called "BRCA2", which gave me a 87% lifetime risk of breast cancer and 52% risk of ovarian cancer. I've lost enough people in my family to this to
feel comfortable with any of the statistics.

Oddly enough, the choice was easy for me. I wanted to defy my destiny. I didn't want to live life with this dark knowledge and hope to "catch it early". My R&D background kicked in and I spent months researching procedures, getting testimonials and interviewing doctors. I designated 2009 to surrender my female organs and undergo four prophylactic surgeries: (bilateral mastectomy, breast reconstruction, oopherectomy and hysterectomy). Gosh, they are still big words no matter how many times I use them.

People have commented on the courage. I thought it was much more fearful to live with knowledge and do nothing than to take action and be proactive. The benefits have so outweighed the costs.

I have one last small surgery after Christmas and will start 2010 fresh, with a risk that is lower than the average woman. It's been a long journey but I have absolutely no regrets. All the hours in doctors offices, waiting rooms, researching on the net will soon be spent painting...and blogging. I'm eager to get going.

But I am still healing and the hardest part is to not do too much too soon. I have two more shows before the end of the year and will send invites out. Meanwhile, the vineyards and fields around my house are aglow with fall colors. This is my favorite time of year. Here's a study of the vineyards I painted this weekend when we had a break in the rain. I'll be doing blueberry fields for the next month. They are brillant red now.


  1. Amanda, you are one take-charge courageous woman..with colossal talent to boot. Congratulations on getting through all those surgeries...and this is a beautiful painting...filled with sunny optimism.

  2. These paintings are amazing and I am totally inspired by your blog and your God blessed talent!!

  3. Yours is a courageous story. Thank you for sharing it. Your paintings are gorgeous. Looking forward to seeing many more of them!

  4. great talent, great care of your person with much courage. Inspiring!
    I did not know blueberry fields went red. I have learned a new thing in my old age.
    Thank you for sharing your life.