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I'm having an op so my kids won't grow up without a mum; KAREN HAS HYSTERECTOMY AND DOUBLE MASTECTOMY TO PREVENT CANCER.

Byline: JANET TANSLEY ECHO Writer janet.tansley@trinitymirror.com @janettansley

A MUM-OF-THREE has chosen to have a hysterectomy so her children won't grow up without a mother.

Karen Graham-Dosanjh was diagnosed with carrying a BRCA1 gene alteration which increases her risk of cancer.

And Karen is not prepared to take any chances. She has already had a double mastectomy.

She said: "I want to give me - and my sons - the chance to survive as long as I possibly can.

"I watched my mum dying of cancer when I was a teenager and there is no way I want my children to go through that. It was horrendous and I never got over it."

But Karen, 47, from Allerton, is optimistic about the future.

She said: "I have undergone chemo and two operations already and, tomorrow, hopefully, is my last.

"After that I am on the road to recovery and looking to have my life back by summer, one I can share with my three beautiful boys."

Karen's mum, Vivienne, died in 1991, aged 42.

Karen, a salsa dance teacher, fitness trainer and DJ, said: "She had been diagnosed with breast cancer at 37 and we were told it was terminal. My mum was given six months to live - she lasted four years.

"I was a typical unthinking teenager. I ran away from the reality of it all - I couldn't cope. I drank lots and failed my A-Levels first time round, there was no counselling and little family support but fortunately I knuckled down and did well in my resits and made it to university. Mum died at the end of my second year.

"My life continued through graduation, marriage and children. But, at the back of my mind was always that I was going to get breast cancer, too."

An abnormal smear test when she was 37 heightened her fears and caused Karen to start thinking about preventative action.

"I had finished breastfeeding my youngest son, Angel, who is now 10, and, after my relationship with his dad ended, I was busy getting mine and my children's lives back together.

"But again at the back of my mind I felt there was a ticking time bomb in my chest. I could not risk my children losing their mum," added Karen, whose older children Keerit and Jeevan are 20 and 19.

Karen had found out about genetic testing to discover whether women - and men - had gene alterations which predisposed them to breast and ovarian cancer, and would enable them to take preventative action, removing their breasts and/or ovaries to remove the risk. Karen felt this would give her peace of mind.

She went to her GP, who was horrified, she says, at the suggestion that she have breast tissue removed, but who referred her to the family history clinic at the Linda McCartney Centre in Liverpool.

"In spring, 2010, despite the numerous deaths in my family from various cancers, only my mother's breast cancer was taken into account and I was told I was only medium risk. I could have annual mammograms earlier but I did not qualify for genetic testing.

"But my 42nd birthday came and it hadn't got me. I had outlived my mum and I started to relax and enjoy life. I got a place at Hope University to do a PGCE course to become a primary school teacher."

Then came the blow. Checking her breasts during a routine monthly exam, she found a sore spot, a thickening under the skin. She went for a mammogram and, on November 20, 2014, Karen was diagnosed with aggressive stage three, grade three breast cancer.

"I told each of my sons separately, the eldest first and he basically said 'goodbye' to me," says Karen. "I was wracked with guilt at putting them through this as well as filled with sadness and anger that I had not insisted on following up my instinct in 2010. I wrote a will and planned my funeral, had my eyebrows tattooed and sorted out a wig. I had a tough fight ahead but I was determined to live for as long as I could."

And, while at first her surgeon suggested a lumpectomy, it was agreed she could have a mastectomy. Reluctantly, she says, the hospital agreed to remove her second healthy breast as a preventative measure after Karen insisted, but they also ordered a family history appointment so she could finally have the genetic testing.

The tests showed that she did, indeed, carry the BRCA1 gene mutation: "My gut instinct had proved right. I had about an 80% chance of developing breast cancer and a 50% chance of ovarian cancer."

Karen started her own group BRCA Support Liverpool to help people like herself, helped by a local cancer centre, Sunflowers, for which she now volunteers.

She said: "I know some people question why you would have surgery when, as yet, there is nothing wrong. But I am reducing the risk and I will know I have done the best I can.

"I won't give in and I would urge all women to follow their instinct and not accept no. Prevention is better than cure."
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 23, 2016
Words:860
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