How Being BRCA Positive Transformed My Life
Anjali (Angie) Karamchandani has a background in the hospitality industry. She has led service organizations at several multinational properties, including Intercontinental Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, where she introduced Vocera, a secure, integrated and intelligent communication system. Angie always feared that she was at high risk for cancer. In 2016, she was able to advocate for her own genetic testing, which resulted in a BRCA2 positive diagnosis. Angie underwent an oophorectomy, which put her into surgically induced menopause at the age of 31, a preventative bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, and two revision surgeries. Angie is currently raising her four children, ages 9, 7, 5 and 3. She and her husband reside in New Jersey. Angie loves staying busy, and she uses chocolate to fuel her. Her family lives and breathes all things Michigan football. Aside from watching college football with her family, Angie loves playing sports and spending time outdoors with her children. Angie now works for Brilliantly, a company dedicated to restoring resiliency, vitality and harmony to women affected by cancer.
Two years ago, I learned that I have a significantly increased risk of developing cancer due to a BRCA gene mutation. Is it possible that this news was exactly what I needed to improve my life and change me for the better? That certainly wasn’t what I was thinking when I found out.
Let's be honest, we all know that we should enjoy each and everyday, live life to the fullest, be in the present moment and count our blessings. But how many of us actually do these things on a daily basis? How many of us put our phones down long enough to notice what's going on around us? Before my BRCA diagnosis I was very content and I was living what I truly thought was my best life. Then came the shocking news, and my whole world came crumbling down. Over the last two years, I faced an ovarian cancer scare, I underwent an oophorectomy (which has put me into surgically-induced menopause), a double mastectomy with reconstruction, an implant exchange surgery and a revision surgery, all in order to reduce my risk of cancer.
What I have come to realize is that through all of the suffering and immense physical and emotional pain, I am not the same person I was before. My body has gained roughly a dozen new scars, and with each one of these battle wounds comes a story, reminding me
each day that I am stronger than ever before. No one teaches you how to gather the strength to survive a situation like this, all while continuing to be a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. Rather, when you are pushed off the edge of a cliff, you have no choice but to learn how to fly.
I have always been grateful for my family, however this journey has taught me to truly appreciate each of them to their core. I no longer go to sleep upset, because I know that tomorrow is not promised to any of us. I spend more time focusing on the present rather than dwelling on the past or the future. I don't allow myself the needless indulgence of worrying about things beyond my control, because I know that worrying in itself does not change the outcome.
I have learned so much about myself through this process. I found an amazing community of powerful, inspiring women who have gone through similar experiences that I am so thankful to call my friends. I have learned to ask for help, and to accept it when offered. I am now fully comfortable in my own skin, and with that has come a new-found confidence.
As a result of my experience, there are so many new things I want to try, because if not now, then when? I want to learn to ride a bike (better late than never!), learn to scuba dive, travel to far-off destinations, and even go to more concerts. I'm still trying to figure out what my passion is, and that's ok. Somehow it feels as though this experience has given me the permission to do all of these things and not hold back anymore.
I've changed, I've grown, and I've learned to thrive in a way that I would have never imagined possible. I am now more compassionate and more thoughtful. I am continually trying to better myself. I hug my kids extra tight, I appreciate my husband more, and I try my best to treat everyone with kindness because I have no idea what they may be going through. Though my body has changed, though my hormones have changed, and though I am constantly experiencing hot flashes throughout the day, I am happier than I've ever been in my life.
Why is it that I had to endure so much pain to come out stronger? Could it be that being BRCA positive was the push I needed to change for the better, to make me live life to the fullest and value each moment, to become Angie 2.0? Does my future self owe it all to being BRCA positive? Could it be that this gene mutation, which I thought would destroy me and take away who I was, is the thing that actually saved me?