Hi! My name is Sarafina Nance, and I’m a 26 y/o astrophysics graduate student at UC Berkeley. I lost my grandmother to ovarian and pancreatic cancer, and my dad is currently fighting for his life against prostate cancer. Cancer is an ugly, horrific disease and my goal is to defeat it before it ever touches my own life.
Right after my dad was diagnosed with highly aggressive Stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer, I tested positive for the cancer-causing BRCA-2 mutation. BRCA mutations are associated with breast cancers, ovarian cancers, pancreatic cancers, and melanoma, as well as being associated with developing cancer at a younger age. My oncological team studied my DNA and put together a genetic panel describing my lifetime risks of getting cancer. I have an 85+% chance of getting breast cancer, and a 30-40% chance of getting ovarian cancer. I hope my story can inspire others to consider genetic testing, assess their risk, and be proactive in managing their cancer risk.
After meeting with my team of doctors and surgeons, a breast MRI, and breast biopsy, I’ve decided to be proactive about my cancer risk and get a risk-reducing prophylactic double mastectomy.
While very scary and a major surgery, this is the best way to minimize my risk so that I (fingers crossed!) never get cancer. This will reduce my odds of breast cancer to less than 5%.
I found an excellent surgeon to do my mastectomy and reconstruction. She has devised a 2-step surgical process to maximize my chances of retaining my nipples. The first step is a “reduction” surgery, scheduled for August 7, 2019, and the second step is the mastectomy and reconstruction with implants in November 2019.
I’ve put together a GoFundMe to ask for help in paying for the surgeries, managing my recovery, and easing the financial burden. Insurance is a significant help here, as it will cover both surgeries, but I’m still responsible for my high deductible and out-of-pocket costs. As a 3rd year graduate student, this financial strain is crippling.
The funds will go to the following: insurance out-of-pocket deductible (surgery costs, doctors appointments, testing, medications, hospital stay, spirometer, etc.); pillows (wedge body pillow, heart-shaped arm pillow, and pregnancy pillow); PJs and robes to hold post-op fluid drains; new wireless bras and medical compression bras; physical therapy to manage pain & reduce lymphedema; silicon scar cream; and gym training to regain range of motion and upper-body strength.
Thank you so much for considering and sharing my story. This has been an extremely difficult emotional and physical journey, but I’m so grateful for my friends and family who are helping ease my burden. Let’s kick cancer’s ass.
To read more about BRCA, check out: https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/BRCA1andBRCA2.html
To learn more about genetic testing, especially if you have a strong family history of cancer, check out: https://www.facingourrisk.org