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HealthI am a 56 year old female with a BRCA-1 gene mutation. I've survived cancer 4 times and have undergone a hysterectomy and double mastectomy. AMA!

Apr 22nd 2017 by 2weeksago_ • 14 Questions • 1417 Points

My name is Tamara Ammons. I was born October 31st, 1960 in Hawthorne, California. I'm the oldest of 3 siblings. I graduated from High School in 1978. I birthed my only child on January 1st, 1994.

My first job was waitressing at a diner called Polly's Pies. Then I moved on to Albertson's, where I was manager of the service deli for 17 years. Then I managed a Hallmark for 6 years. My last position was manager at Sears in the Del Amo Fashion Center. I was there for 6 years. I worked up until I was 45 years old. I am now on permanent disability.

I am a huge animal person and I love movies. My biggest passion is working in my backyard garden. I love growing pumpkins, carrots and many different flowers.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. Then in 2009 the breast cancer returned: At the recommendation of my physician, I had both of my breasts removed, as well as my uterus. In 2012 I developed pancreatic cancer which progressed to Stage 3. In October of 2016 I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I currently do intravenous chemo therapy bi-weekly and a daily 2,500mg regimen of Capecitabine(Xeloda).

I want to use reddit to reach out to people who have any questions about being newly diagnosed or anything at all. Here is my proof: http://i63.tinypic.com/2lsvcp2.jpg

Q:

do you recommend women get tested for the brca gene if breast cancer runs in the family?

A:

Yes definitely. Early if possible. I can't stress that enough.


Q:

What is it like, knowing that something in your own body has grown with the intention of taking you down? It must be absolutely dreadful having these thoughts...

A:

Well yes it is. I just get checked every month to see if something has come back. Not much you can do when you're chronic.


Q:

Do you regret working so much?

A:

I do and I don't. I started working when I was 15 years old and there was a lot of stress.


Q:

At what point were you tested for brca1? How expensive was the test at the time?

A:

I was tested in 2010 when my first breast was removed. The cost was covered by my medical insurance so I'm not entirely sure.


Q:

That actually never even occurred to me. Makes more sense. But if anyone is interested in the Ashkenazi Jew's and their ties toward genetic predisposition to diseases, it's actually mind-boggling. This one subset has an astronomically higher chance for so many medical conditions, it's crazy.

A:

I'm a quarter Native American. Half English and half Dutch.


Q:

Did she tests positive for any other mutations? If so I would get tested but insurance will likely not cover it and it's about 5000, roughly.

Obv not the OP, but I have/had breast cancer at 40 and was not positive for BRCA or any other mutations, just one area of non significant change. My oncologists advice for what to do about my daughter (3) was to teach her to be hyper aware of how her body feels and to be proactive about screening early. She will probably have her first mammogram/ultrasound at thirty five instead of 40, etc. talk to your Ob/gyn of you are concerned and want to be proactive.

A:

You most likely don't carry it if your mom tested negative. Has your father been diagnosed with anything?


Q:

Did you change your dietary habits after being diagnosed?

A:

Yes I gave up a lot of junk food and I lost 90 pounds.


Q:

How the hell have you afforded all of that healthcare and treatments; are you millions of dollars in debt?

A:

Not really, more like a couple thousand. I went on SSI when I was 43, which automatically gave me medicare/medi-cal and they took over everything. There's been thousands of scans and tests. I have to follow my cancer on scans because it always wants to return.


Q:

What is a a mastectomy?

A:

It's when you have your breasts removed to prevent cancer from reoccurring in them. In my experience it was going to return.


Q:

What are the side effects of Xeloda? And what can you do to make some of them not as bad?

A:

There's nothing that can be done about the side effects. It makes me exhausted and I just have to sleep.


Q:

How long are chemo treatments, how many minutes? What do you while being treated? Read? Watch TV or movies? Draw?

A:

They're 3 hours. I read magazines. I play with my iPad. My mother accompanies me to them so she keeps me company.


Q:

Do you ever ask questions on other people's AMA's ?

A:

Sure do!


Q:

Thank you for sharing, this is very inspiring! I love animals too. I worry about living longer than my cat sometimes. So my question: What do you like to do to celebrate life (besides gardening, planted 300 seeds of only 6 sprouted cuz over watering) that I might be able to do?

A:

I have a goal to return to college and study forensic science. I also am interested in horticultural science. Perhaps you could find something that you want to study. Are you a cancer patient?


Q:

Do you think Kim Jong Un pees and poops?

A:

Nope .