Jewish Health

Hayley - Interview 3

Age at interview: 39

Brief outline: Hayley discovered she carried a mutation on the BRCA1 gene after her cousin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She has had her ovaries removed and is considering a double mastectomy. Hayley feels it's important to read about the BRCA1 gene and cancer to maintain control.

Background: Hayley a teacher, is married and has three children. Ethnic background/nationality: Jewish

Audio & video

Hayley was tested for a mutation on the BRCA1 gene after her cousin, who had ovarian cancer, opened up her medical records and Hayley received a letter suggesting she was tested. In April 2008 she found out she had the mutation which was passed down by her father. Hayley describes this as a bombshell and despite being screened for ovarian and breast cancer, felt the ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging over her. She was given the statistical chances of developing cancer, which varied over time, and decided to have her ovaries removed. The keyhole surgery went well and, as Hayley and her husband had completed their family with their two sons, she did not feel this was a big issue. The Tiberlone hormone replacement therapy she takes on a daily basis has not produced any side effects.
The next decision for Hayley is whether to have a double mastectomy and this is a big decision for her. She wants to get as much information as she can about reconstruction, the extent of scarring, the level of pain and so on before making this decision.
Hayley describes her husband as “an absolute star” and he brings her back down to earth if she becomes melodramatic about the possibility she might develop cancer. She has read a lot of information about cancer and the BRCA1 gene and describes how important it is to be knowledgeable and have some sort of control over the experience. Hayley has a yearly counselling session, a yearly mammogram and MRI scan and describes the treatment she has received on the NHS as brilliant.
Hayley’s family are Ashkenazi Jews and while her parents follow some Jewish observances, Hayley describes herself as “not religious in the slightest”. She feels that being Jewish is a strong part of her identity (though one she is not necessarily proud of at the moment). Her sons are aware of their Jewish background and she likes some aspects of Jewish culture such as the humour. 


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