People who inherit harmful changes in the breast cancer genes or BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 face a greater risk of developing breast cancer. People who have Lynch syndrome have a higher risk of certain types of cancer. A LaGrange woman tested negative for both, but got cancer anyway.
Renae Willis was searching for answers. Two of her siblings had tested positive for Lynch Syndrome and one of them was battling uterine cancer, which ultimately killed her. Several cousins had also battled various types of cancer.
Willis was not prepared for a breast cancer diagnosis. In 2016, after getting her mammogram, she got the dreaded call back, though cysts had raised eyebrows in the past.
“The doctor said this looks a little different than what we’ve seen before so that kind of scared me a little bit, so at that point we did a biopsy, it came back positive, it was stage zero, it was non invasive though so I actually felt very fortunate,” said Renae Willis.
Ironically, her mother was battling breast cancer at the same time in Arkansas. She, like Renae, survived. Willis had a lumpectomy and radiation, but no chemo. She was also prescribed the hormone therapy drug called Tamoxifen. She received her treatment at the Enoch Callaway Cancer Clinic. She’s grateful her cancer was caught early. Her advice for others facing this battle is take charge of your own situation.
“You have to be your own advocate. I think you have to research what your options. I think the positive attitude just takes you so far. You can’t just sink into depths of despair. You have to lean on your faith and your family and your friends. All of those people can help so much. So if you know someone who is going through it, you give them the help that they need.”
Some of the cancers associated with Lynch syndrome which Renae tested negative for are cancers of the colon and rectum, as well as cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain, and skin. Cancers specifically targeting women are uterine cancer and cancer of the lining of the uterus or endometrium.