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The Angelina Effect: Turning Awareness Into Action

01/05/2015 03:32PM ● Published by Style

Many of us live in fear of getting cancer. But what if you knew that you stood an 85% chance of getting it? Would you lop off body parts in an attempt to outwit the cancer? Well, as most of us recall, that’s exactly what Angelina Jolie did after testing positive for BRCA1 – the “cancer gene.” She made that difficult decision to undergo a preventative mastectomy in order to prolong her life.

But little has been said since then about this growing population who are carrying this genetic mutation. That is, until now. Local resident and BRCA1 cancer gene carrier, Jael Torrez, is on a mission to bring awareness to men and women of all ages of this deadly gene. According to statistics, women who test positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation have an 85% chance of developing breast cancer, and a 60% of getting ovarian cancer. There is also a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and for men prostate cancer. “Based on those odds, we as carriers face the agonizing choice: should we have preventative surgeries?” says Jael.

It all started a year ago in January 2014, when Jael received a phone call from her sister in New Jersey. “I will never forget that phone call – hearing my sister tell me she tested positive for BRCA1 was heart wrenching enough – but then to hear her say that the doctors want me to get tested as well. That never even crossed my mind, I was just devastated for her, she was only 26 years old.” Jael immediately connected with a genetic specialist at Sutter Roseville, and 2 weeks later the tests came back positive. “Sitting in the specialist’s office that January day hearing her say ‘You have the BRCA1 gene, Jael, and we need to talk about some pretty difficult things now’ I was flooded with a wave of emotions” says Jael. “It was overwhelming. My life as I knew it would never be the same again.”

After numerous consultations, meetings with doctors, and discussions with her family, Jael decided to take drastic measures. In June she underwent a total hysterectomy. “I was 39 years old, had two beautiful kids, and my husband and I had no plans for any more children, so I was ready to do whatever I had to do to prolong my life – for my family – by any means necessary.”  A total hysterectomy meant that Jael would be thrown into immediate Menopause, but those were the consequences she was more than willing to deal with. “I remember deciding one day I have to ‘soldier up’ no matter what, and face this disease head on. This was something I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life, and not just me, but my daughter now has a 50% of being a carrier as well. I was going to take control of it from day one, for me and for her as well.

With the success of the hysterectomy behind her, Jael still faces the difficult decision of undergoing a preventative mastectomy and reconstruction, as Angelina Jolie did. Until then, she has mammograms and MRI’s every 4 months. “It is so important to be proactive and stay on top of this every step of the way. I am filled with gratitude for Angelina Jolie bringing this to light. But there is so much more that needs to be done still. My mission is to spark conversation amongst women nationwide about this disease. More than just creating awareness – but to take action with their health. My good friend Emily Wentworth from San Francisco is also BRCA1 positive, and is only 28 years old. It has been so nice to have her to confide in, share our fears together, and also encourage each other throughout this journey. She made the brave decision to have a preventative mastectomy a few weeks ago and is recovering as we speak. My wish is that every woman on this BRCA1 journey would have a support group or close friend that would encourage them.”

The lack of understanding and action may be in part attributed to the assumption that many readers can’t relate – they think “that isn’t me.” The truth is that Jael’s story is actionable for all of us, all of the women in the U.S. between the ages of 18-45 who are at risk simply by being female. We have the power to be proactive. There are things we can and should be doing now to take control of our health so that, in turn, it won’t control us.

There is one silver lining in all of this – in an effort to cut out chemicals and cancer-causing agents – Jael and her daughter founded and created “Blissfulicious” – a skincare line handcrafted with all natural ingredients and no chemicals – sugar scrubs including their popular “Vanilla Latte Sugar Scrub” and “Coconut Lavender Sugar Scrub” – all safe enough for women and girls of any age.
“I set out to create something my daughter and I could use without the harm of chemicals, and safe enough for someone like her at age 10 or me at age 40. So we did the medical research and went to work. It took off like wildfire. Turns out I’m not the only one that wants safe all-natural alternatives to the expensive harmful products on the market today.”
The power is in your hands to detect these diseases at early, non-life-threatening stages by knowing your body, knowing what’s normal for you, and knowing when and what to bring to the attention of a doctor you trust. “My sister did just that, and because of her, I am now able to take action with my health and encourage others who may be going through the same thing.”

Use the “Angelina Effect” to truly affect change for someone incredibly important: YOU. You owe it to yourself and those you love to invest in your own bright future.

Jael is available at jaeltorrez@gmail.com and check out her products safe enough for BRCA1 carriers like herself www.blissfulicious.com.

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