23 May 2017
Support for women living with the BRCA 1/2 gene mutation in East Kent has been given a boost thanks to a grant from Macmillan Cancer Support.
The BRCA Kent group supports women who have been identified as having an inherited BRCA 1/ 2 gene mutation which means that their likelihood of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is much greater than the general population.
Formed in Maidstone by volunteers it became clear to BRCA Kent that women in East Kent who had had a positive diagnosis were also in need of support, so a satellite group was established and now meets monthly (not July/August) at The ABode Hotel, High Street, Canterbury.
The East Kent group is co-hosted by Natalie Gawler (22), from Herne Bay, who at just 18 years old discovered she had inherited the BRCA 1 gene mutation from her paternal grandmother.
She explained: “My Nan was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 32 and she also suffered with a number of secondary cancers. She became involved with a research programme at the Royal Marsden Hospital which identified her as BRCA 1. Seven of her 10 grandchildren are girls and she always told us about the gene and that we should be tested.
“Sadly Nan died in 2009 but as soon as I was 18 I knew that wanted to know if I had the gene or not.”
Natalie’s sister Danielle (20) has also been identified as BRCA 1 and both attend the East Kent BRCA group.
Natalie added: “The other ladies in the group are at different stages of their treatment or surveillance and it gives me reassurance that I don’t have to make any decisions about surgery or treatment just yet. Everyone chooses a different path to follow but just talking to the other members helps allay my fears and means that I’m not constantly worrying about the choices and my decisions.”
Suzannah Fitzgerald is a breast care nurse specialist running a family history clinic and has helped set up the East Kent group.
She said: “Finding out you have a mutated BRCA gene is a very emotional experience and support for women is still patchy. Our group is strictly for those who have had a positive diagnosis so they know exactly how each other feels. Just to have the opportunity to share your feelings, or even a cup of tea or a shoulder to cry on can make a huge difference.”
BRCA Kent received a £500 Macmillan grant. Jane Viner, Macmillan Engagement Co-ordinator, explained: “Our Supporting You to Help Others Grants Programme helps give people affected by cancer the opportunity to use their experiences to support others while at the same time getting support for themselves.”
There is further information available on the BRCA Kent Website or through Twitter @BRCAKent and Facebook BRCAKent (closed group).
For more information about the grants as well as advice, information, support and training and how to apply for grants to set up or develop your group contact your local Macmillan Engagement Co-coordinator.