Tracy Milgram is my guest on this episode. She is the founder of BRCAStrong, a non-profit organization, supporting women facing breast and/or ovarian cancer regardless of a known genetic mutation. Tracy shared her journey of finding out that she had a genetic mutation at a young age, how that information impacted her life decisions, and why she created BRCAStrong.
Due to an extensive history of cancer in her family, Tracy began breast screenings at an early age. At the age of 18, she found a lump in her breast that ultimately led to a benign lumpectomy. Tracy underwent another benign lumpectomy the following year at the age of 19. In 2004, at the age of 21, after finding yet another lump, Tracy pushed for genetic testing and learned that she is a BRCA2 mutation carrier.
Tracy shared how the knowledge of having a genetic predisposition to cancer changed her view and perspective of life at such a young age. She felt a sense of pressure and wanted to rush to get married, have kids, and then take preventative action. It was the plan she had created for herself and that was what she did.
Tracy continued to undergo surveillance for 12 years until she was told that she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and was at increased risk for ovarian cancer. She experienced the true impact of scanxiety over that time and felt like it was just a ticking time bomb. In addition, she had an aunt who passed away at a young age and many female family members who developed ovarian cancer later in life.
Tracy underwent a total hysterectomy followed by a preventative bilateral mastectomy. Six months after her mastectomy, she divorced her husband. Tracy realized that she was so consumed and overwhelmed at such a young age with knowing she had a genetic mutation, that she rushed into getting married. She doesn’t think that it should be recommended for young people to get genetic testing completed because of the way it changes one’s perspective of life. She suggested that young people undergo the appropriate surveillance and when they are ready, have the genetic testing completed.
Tracy’s journey led her to founding BRCAStrong in 2015, a non-profit organization supporting women with breast and/or ovarian cancer, regardless of a known genetic mutation. The organization provides post-mastectomy bras and garments, as well as lymphedema sleeves. They host events to include live, virtual events and when we are not in the middle of a pandemic, they also do a fashion show and transformational photoshoots. The BRCAStrong.org website is chalked full of great resources and information to support women facing breast and ovarian cancer.