Cancer research has saved my life

Tracey Barraclough, who had radical surgery to avoid contracting cancers that have killed members of her family

Tracey Barraclough, who had radical surgery to avoid contracting cancers that have killed members of her family

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

Tracey Barraclough has never had cancer, but says cancer research saved her life.

Thirteen years ago, the Calverley mum made the agonising decision to have radical surgery – a preventative double mastectomy, after a hysterectomy – to make sure her life was not devastated by the illness.

Her grandmother and great-grandmother had both died of ovarian cancer when they were in their 50s, and when her mother, Joan Kent, was diagnosed with the disease in 1989, she expected to be next.

Ten months after her mother’s death in 1996, and at the age of 38, her fears were realised when pioneering tests showed she had inherited a faulty BRCA1 gene.

The mum of a young son had an 85 per chance of developing breast cancer and a 60 per cent chance of suffering ovarian cancer.

It meant she had a difficult decision to make – whether or not to have her healthy breasts, ovaries and womb removed to make sure she did not suffer the same fate as three generations of her family.

Speaking yesterday, as it was revealed Hollywood star Angelina Jolie had undergone similar surgery after learning she had the same faulty gene, Tracey said she owed her life to the groundbreaking work of cancer scientists.

She also backed the Telegraph & Argus Bradford Crocus Appeal, which aims to raise £1 million towards research into new cancer treatments in Bradford.

“Where would I be without research?” the 53-year-old said. “I think about that a lot, especially as I’m at an age where other members of my family died.

“I see it as a gift. I was able to make a choice that my family couldn’t. I’ve not had cancer, but cancer research has saved my life.”

Before Tracey’s mother died, she provided a blood sample to researchers who were trying to pinpoint the BRCA1 gene, which increases the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

“Ten months after she died I got a letter saying she had the gene and offering me the test,” she said.

“I was still grieving for her and it was such a sad time, but I knew I wanted the test. I wanted to know what I was dealing with and face it head on.

“But when the results came back positive I was devastated.”

Tracey almost immediately made the decision to have her ovaries removed and had surgery in August 1998.

“That was a decision based on emotion, because I’d lost my mum and nana to ovarian cancer and had seen my mother suffer so much,” she said.

“It took me a lot of time to decide to have the mastectomy.

“It was agonising and my head was all over the place. It’s difficult to make a choice because there’s nothing wrong with you.”

The T&A Bradford Crocus Cancer Appeal aims to buy Bradford University’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics (ICT) a new mass spectrometer, which could help scientists pioneer cancer treatments ten times faster than ever before.

It will also further cement Bradford’s world-class reputation as a pioneer in the fight against the disease.

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