Crystal Lane was 26 years old and the primary caregiver for her (then) 15-year-old brother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her brother was under her care because all three of their parents (same mother; different fathers) had passed away from cancer.
Crystal says she had asked about genetic testing when her parents died, and, not knowing a whole lot about it, figured she didn’t need to go through with it at that time.
“My father was elderly, and we weren’t that shocked with his sickness. My mother was in her 40s, but I thought I had at least that long before I needed to worry about screening.”
After the lump continued to get bigger and she was continually told, “It was something else,” Crystal switched doctors and saw someone at Emory. Within 20 minutes she was diagnosed with stage 3, triple-negative breast cancer. She had a newborn daughter that she was breastfeeding. Ironically, “part of the reason why I wanted to breastfeed is to reduce my risk for breast cancer,” she said.
After having genetic testing and finding she is BRCA-1 positive, Crystal uncovered her family’s history. Losing her parents to cancer was only a sign of a long line of cancer deaths on both sides of the family. She found she has the same mutation as nearly everyone that was diagnosed with cancer on her mother’s side.
“Sometimes I still get angry. I get angry with people when they get diagnosed and don’t want to share it with their family, or take further precautions to rule out genetics. I had been dismissed for so long, that when I was finally diagnosed, I became aggressive with sharing information with my family, encouraging them to get screened.”
Today, Crystal looks forward to moving on with her life. She received a master’s degree in public health and wants to use her power of information – both on a personal and a professional level. Because of that, she says she doesn’t mind being the poster child for genetic testing.
“I can’t go back in time. But I can vow to never be silent. I can help people who are struggling with this information. Having the information is power. You can save a life.”
And saving lives is what she intends to do.
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