Brave Wigan woman beats rare cancer gene
A Wigan woman who fought cervical cancer has undergone a double mastectomy after discovering she carries an aggressive cancer gene.
Danielle Vose, from Standish, made the brave decision to have her breasts removed after discovering that both her gran, her two sisters and her great-grandma had suffered from ovarian cancer due to the faulty gene.
The 29-year-old social worker underwent a gruelling eight-hour operation during which tissue from her chest was cut out and her back muscle was moved round to form new breasts.
She was only made aware of the genetic mutation BRCA1, which is rare within the general population, when she applied to donate her eggs.
“They looked through my family tree,” said Danielle. “Out of my grandma, her two sisters and her mum, one of them got ovarian cancer when they were 38 and the others were in their 40s.
“My mum used to ask when I was younger if I was at risk but she was told that because it was on my dad’s side I wouldn’t get it.
“The research just wasn’t there back then.”
Following her appointment, Danielle asked her GP for a referral to a genetic testing clinic in Manchester but was told that they would only be able to test her dad, Chris, whose results initially came back negative.
In 2016, Danielle received the devastating news that a smear test had found a cancerous tumour in her cervix - and she was referred to The Christie for treatment.
“The cervical cancer has absolutely nothing to do with the gene,” she said. “They caught it early so I had the choice of whether to have a hysterectomy or not.
“They took into account my age and the fact that I didn’t have children, so we decided I would have the cancer removed and the lymph nodes.”
“Because of this, the gene testing took a bit of a back seat.”
In another shock for the family, while Danielle was recovering from her ordeal, another relative was diagnosed with breast cancer - although she too also tested negative for BRCA1.
The family, determined for answers, pushed for a biopsy of her gran’s tumour to be tested, a move which was to reveal the potentially deadly gene on Danielle’s dad’s side of the family.
Chris was soon retested and told that they he had been harbouring the gene all along.
“I knew I would have it,” said Danielle. “I’m the spit of my dad in every way. I just knew I would have it all along really.
“It was last year when they finally told me the news.
“The whole process took five years because of the time in between testing and obviously the break while I was being treated for cervical cancer. I already had it in my head that I would have the mastectomy if it came back positive.
“I’ve already had cancer once so why run that risk again?”
Danielle, who had already bravely fought cancer, was given the option of undergoing surgery - or facing an MRI scan every year for the rest of her life.
With an increased risk of up to 90 per cent for breast cancer and 60 per cent for ovarian cancer, she made the life-changing decision to go for the gruelling surgery.
She added: “Surgery isn’t for everyone. I knew I would have to go through a long process before it got to that.
“They send you to a psychiatrist to make sure you are ready.
“But still, in the long term - you worry about how you are going to look afterwards.
“I know they will never feel the same again to me either.”
Still under care at The Christie, Danielle was able to request the surgery through the centre.
She said: “They are absolutely amazing and I felt so safe and comfortable there.
“It’s one of the better places in terms of what they can do for you.”
In December, only two years after receiving the all clear for cervical cancer, Danielle went under the knife again at the world-renowned cancer care centre.
During the eight-hour operation, the tissue was removed from both of her breasts and muscle from her back was pulled round to her chest.
“It was two weeks before they took the dressings off me,” she said.
“I looked like an octopus with loads of tubes coming out of me. It was pretty grim.”
Four weeks on, Danielle is back at home and learning to accept her new body, and the limitations that come with it.
“I know they will never feel the same,” she added. “They don’t quite feel like they belong to me.
“But it was a decision I have made and I made it for a reason.
“I wasn’t going through all that with cervical cancer only to get cancer again a couple of years down the line.
“I won’t be able to exercise now for a while and my body will always register that my back muscles are on my chest - it’s really strange.
“I’m finding it hard getting used to being immobile and off work for a few months, but I will recover in time and I’m glad I did it so young.”
Just weeks before her 30th birthday, Danielle is optimistic for the future and is looking forward to a holiday in Vegas with her best friends in September.
“There are so many options out there now for women with this gene,” she said. “I would really urge anyone who has a family history to get referred by their GP and look at their options.
“You will get all of the support you need.
“My family and friends have been amazing throughout the entire process.”
In seven years Danielle will have to face the decision of whether to have a hysterectomy to reduce her chances of ovarian cancer.