Brown Girl + BRCA Plus: When Advocacy and Research Join Forces

August 18 is World Breast Cancer Research Day, a day to recognize how far understanding, treating, and preventing breast cancer has come. When advocacy and research come together, the results are powerful and have the ability to impact generations.

There are so many stories in this space of patients who have been the recipients of new medical discoveries. We were beyond inspired by Dr. Kellie Goss’ journey and decision to receive a preventative double mastectomy after genetic testing confirmed the presence of the BCRA gene mutation.

Testing positive for the BRCA mutation means that your body has a lower chance at being able to prevent breast and ovarian cancers. Kellie’s results revealed a 75% chance of getting breast cancer and an 80% chance of ovarian cancer in her lifetime.

The path to these results wasn’t an easy one. In fact, it would be 5 years after the first conversation with her primary care doctor before Kellie would move to get the genetic testing done. This was the result of a separate conversation with her very persistent OB/GYN, who insisted she take the quick blood draw. After some back and forth, Kellie agreed.

”Had she not done that, I once again probably wouldn’t have taken it very seriously” Kellie states, adding that before the genetic testing was done, she lived with the fear that her fate was sealed anyway.

Kellie, whose own mother had fought off breast cancer twice, felt her diagnosis would come and she would deal with it at that time. In her world, doing any sort of preventative action was something only rich, white celebrities do, citing the 2013 Angelina Jolie double mastectomy story.

The truth is, black women are less likely to get a breast cancer diagnosis, but once diagnosed, are more likely to die from it. This is a deeply troubling fact that Kellie knew sharing her story could potentially shift.

Research has brought us to a place where patients can literally reroute their lives. We think about these hefty decisions as stories that deliver a certain outcome. Kellie would go on to undergo a 12 hour surgery, involving 3 doctors to perform a double mastectomy and hysterectomy.

This was not a light decision. But it changed her life and gave her an opportunity to raise awareness and be a voice other black and brown women could look to when making informed decisions about their health.

By normalizing these conversations in black and brown communities, we can destigmatize taking preventative action, increase discussions with doctors, and shift the culture.

Kellie recalls the negative feedback she’s received.

“Some folks will never understand why I had a preventative mastectomy based on a percentage, but when I travel with my family, hear my husband’s laughter, and celebrate my children’s accomplishments, I know that I made the best decision for me and my family.”

Taking a moment to pause here and see this story for more than a story. It is actually our chance as bystanders to see the fruit of breast cancer research. Kellie’s decision changed not only her life, but her legacy.

We thank Kellie for her continued transparency and advocacy for other previvors!

Sources:
Kellie’s blog:  https://www.browngirlandbrcaplus.com

Kellie’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/browngirlandbrcaplus/
Breast Cancer in African American Women: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15632248/

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