Nara Abrams's Story
Nara credits WCH research with saving her life.
Nara Abrams knows that research saves lives. Until she participated in a study, she didn’t think it would save hers.
Three years ago, as part of a pledge to a friend, Nara took part in a Women’s College Research Institute study testing 2,000 Ontario Jewish women for the breast cancer genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. In January 2009, she got the call. “I was told I had the genetic mutation,” she remembers, putting her in the one per cent of Jewish women in Ontario who are 70 per cent likely to develop breast cancer and 40 per cent likely to have ovarian cancer.
“In that exact moment, I was very sure of what I wanted to do,” explains Nara who was guided by her overriding desire to see her children grow up. She wanted to protect them from seeing their mother battle cancer. It was a trauma she knew intimately, having lost her own mother to leukemia.
On her 35th birthday, Nara had a hysterectomy followed a few months later by a double mastectomy and immediate reconstructive surgery.
On the morning of her surgery, Nara found a bird’s feather – a random discovery that for her had deep meaning. For years, she and her family had found feathers at important moments in their lives and they always felt these discoveries signified Nara’s mother was with them in spirit.
“I feel very lucky to have found out that I have this gene,” says the Thornhill, Ontario mother of two. “I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet.”
With no family history of breast cancer, Nara was not eligible for genetic testing in Ontario. Thanks to Women’s College Hospital, she was given the chance to confirm and then reduce her risk.
“Cancer prevention isn’t something we talk about a lot. It’s often hard to see the benefits because they’re so long term. This research changed my life today.”
Nara continues to participate in Women’s College Research Institute studies to help enhance understanding about the impact of hysterectomies on young women as they age, and she’s a passionate supporter of the plans to integrate research into the transformed mission of Women’s College Hospital.
“A continuing emphasis on research is really, really important,” she says. “My daughter asked me the other day if I could get breast cancer. I was so grateful to say ‘no’. That kind of knowledge – it’s priceless."
To learn more about accessible BRCA genetic testing, visit The Screen Project. Your donation today will help women like Nara receive the support they need to get back to their health and their lives. Donate online and transform the future of healthcare for women everywhere.