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Triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer survivor: Facing new questions with genetic testing

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For Terry Arnold, the decision to undergo genetic testing was simple. A triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer survivor, she wanted her children to have the warning she never had.

"By having this testing I'm protecting my family," Terry says. "Now, we have the smoke alarm."

Terry is a mother of five -- three girls and two boys -- ranging in ages from 19 to 31, and a grandmother of five. Genetic testing for the BRCA gene could let those future generations know if they are at risk for breast and ovarian cancers. 

She received the results in November 2013.

"Mutated gene 5385insc-BRCA 1," the report said. That meant her children could have the gene as well.

Facing new questions after genetic testing
Terry's daughters plan to undergo genetic testing soon. Her sons are considering testing to see if they carry the gene. 

At 24-years-old, Terry's daughter Veronica says her mom's results have inspired her to schedule mammograms and cancer screenings.

"If I get cancer, then I'll get cancer, and I'll deal with that the best I can," Veronica says. " But at least with the test results, I know, I need to start early with regular cancer screenings every six months, so I can stay as safe as possible." 

Finding hope in a mother's breast cancer journey

While Terry knows genetic testing was the right thing for her family, she says it was hard to tell her children she had the gene and wished there was some way she could have spared them this. Her children watched her undergo a year of treatment, including chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation, for two rare types of breast cancer.

 "I don't want them to live in fear," Terry says.  

But what Veronica took away from her mother's cancer journey was not the pain she endured, but instead the strength and grace she demonstrated. It's those qualities that Veronica says she strives to emulate in her own life.  As a breast cancer survivor, her mother gives her a reason to believe that beating cancer, even a type as rare as triple negative inflammatory, is possible.

 "We know the reality of cancer," Terry says. "But we also know there's hope."

Terry Arnold was diagnosed with a right inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in August 2007 and a left contralateral tumor soon after. She had six months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and daily radiation treatment for six weeks. She completed treatment in June 2008, and has been an IBC ambassador and advocate since.

 Read more posts by Terry Arnold                                                                            

Breast cancer and ovarian cancer are two areas MD Anderson is focusing on as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically reduce cancer deaths. Learn more about our Breast and Ovarian Cancer Moon Shot.

2 Comments

Thank you Kellie for sharing my article on CancerWise. I hope readers will comment and share this article, so hopefully we can all learn and save women.

Hope always, Terry Arnold

Well, we owe a big thank you to you and Veronica. We appreciate your willingness to share.

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