My name is Danielle Horner. I am a 37 year old mother of 4 from Brookfield, WI. Ten years ago, while pregnant with my second daughter, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. The oldest of 3 children, I reacted emotionally but quickly composed myself and began to show support and encouragement for both my mom and younger siblings. My mom went through a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation and seemed to be on the road to recovery.
I was very optimistic. My mom raised us as a single mother, she was the center of our world. The idea that anything could ever take her away from us was something I couldn't imagine. My belief was that she had beat breast cancer and it would never worry us again.
I remember the day my mom called me. Almost 3 years had passed and she had some stomach pain. She went in for a lower G.I. scan. The scan caught the lower half of her lungs by accident while looking at her kidneys. There they discovered nodules on both lungs, nearly 20 spots in each. Her cancer had metastasized to her lungs and was now 4th stage and very aggressive. I remember feeling like I had stopped breathing when I heard the news. I wasn't sure how to react. Do I freak out, start sobbing and screaming or be calm and supportive so that I don't upset my frightened mom even more? I could not have imagined what the next chapter might be or what the future might hold for my mom and our family.
We were as positive as we could be while witnessing my beloved mom endure countless surgeries, treatments and illness more terrible than you could imagine. She had suffered so many horrible side affects from the treatments, it became unbearable to watch. To fast forward the story a bit, she survived far longer than anyone had anticipated, but took her last breath on November 30th, 2006 at 6:05 in the morning.
My brother, sister and I were blessed with life and love by this incredible woman and were there to witness her graceful exit onto the next place.
At eight and a half months pregnant, I stood before hundreds of friends and family delivering a eulogy for the proud grandma who would never meet her anticipated grandson. My heart was heavier than I can express. A year and a half later, my fourth child was born. Another girl whom I named after my mother. The sadness I carried with me was still great but I was becoming more and more proactive in my life and wanting to feel more security in my own future and the future of my children. I decided to have genetic testing done. Suggested by my doctor, I made an appointment to meet with a genetic counselor and brought my younger sister along with me. It took 2 weeks for the test results to come in. When I received the call with the news from my BRCA Analysis I was pretty confident. Having now lost both of my parents in the past several years to cancer I felt this would be my break. I was wrong. Both my sister and I tested positive for the BRCA2 gene. Our results were shocking. The statistics were very high for both of us and the risks were far too great. We both decided to have prophylactic bilateral mastectomies within moments of hearing our results.
Having one of my mother's final wishes be that her daughters never suffer from this disease, our decision to go ahead with proactive surgery was simple. I couldn't imagine making any other choice.
My surgery was March 16, just three and a half months ago. It has been a rough climb, but I would do it again if I had to. I feel a great sense of pride knowing that I have made the right choice for myself, my husband and children and I have honored my mother in the best way I know how.
With surgery being behind me I feel more grateful than ever for my health, my family and friends who have supported me and for the future that shines brighter than ever before.
This is my story...
Danielle Horner, (Danni)