As Angelina Jolie reveals she underwent a double mastectomy after discovering she had the BRCA1 gene, mother-of-one Tracey Barraclough, 53, from Leeds, tells ITV News why she underwent the same procedure when she found out she was a carrier of the same gene.
I lost my mother, grandmother and great grandmother to cancer, all of whom had developed the disease at an early age. And I wondered if I was going to be next.
I was convinced I was a walking health time bomb and, in 1998, I discovered that I had inherited the BRCA1 gene, which meant I had up to a 60% chance of developing ovarian cancer and an 85% risk of developing breast cancer.
Until I found out I had the BRCA1 gene, I never really understood the absolute importance of genetics in the development of cancer.
Genetics had always seemed to be about research, medicines and treatments of the future, but my experiences soon showed me how relevant it was to me right now.
I didn’t want my son Josh to go through what I did when I lost my mother. I wanted to live to see him grow up and I didn’t want him to see me suffer in that way.
He is 18 now and it has been wonderful to spend so much time with him - we have been through this together and he is my rock.
I was determined to break my family’s cancer chain and, armed with the knowledge that I carried the BRCA1 gene, I decided to have first a hysterectomy, and then nearly two years later, a double mastectomy.
It might sound like a difficult decision, but I felt privileged in being given information, which gave me a choice - something that my mother, grandmother and great grandmother never had.
To me, research has given me the gift of life.
Organisations like Cancer Research UK have played a huge part in the understanding of abnormal genes, such as BRCA1, which are prevalent in a number of families across the world.
I am just one of many people that have been very lucky to have benefited from this cutting edge work.
Having the operations changed the way I lived my life along with my priorities and my perspective on it.
I have since gone on to undertake numerous 10K races, seven half-marathons and the London Marathon in 2008. I have even taken part in bodybuilding competitions now too.
All the tough things I have faced in my life have made me the person I am today. There is more to being a woman than a pair of breasts.
I love my life and I have ended up doing things I never would have done.
It has made me determined to make the most out of every day, and I now use my experiences in overcoming adversity to inspire and give confidence to others, so they can face their own challenges and change their lives for the better.