A breakthrough in genetic cancer research saved my life

Posted on: 25 March 2013 by 50connect editorial

How Cancer Research UK's pioneering research into discovering new ways to fight cancer convinced Clare Delaney to make an important and life-changing decision.

Clare Delaney

One woman's story highlighting the life-saving difference that a generation of cancer research has made, and the importance of organisations like Cancer Research UK who continue to fight cancer on all fronts.

When Clare Delaney was 13, her mother Pat died of cancer. She was only 34 years old when diagnosed with breast cancer and though she underwent treatment, Pat died four years later after the disease had spread to her liver.

Several years later, Clare discovered that cancer had affected all the women on her mother’s side of the family and that her grandmother’s generation of women had all died from the disease. After investigating further, she found it had also affected her mother’s cousins and all their female children, with the youngest being diagnosed at just 28 years old. Clare’s family had long suspected the disease was hereditary – even before scientists were able to confirm the link. In the 1990s, Cancer Research UK funded scientists led a team who confirmed a link between ‘faulty’ genes and breast cancer. When she heard about this, Clare knew she had an important and life-changing decision to make.

Doctors took a sample from Clare and her aunt (who was the only living female survivor of breast cancer in her family) and were able to confirm that both shared a hereditary ‘faulty’ gene. Clare was given three options: to undertake an annual mammogram; take Tamoxifen or lastly, she could elect to have a double bilateral mastectomy. The decision, she said emphatically, “was easy”!

“After they’d removed my breasts they performed pathology on the tissue, which showed pre-cancerous cells. I’m so, so glad I had the mastectomy. Catching the disease before it developed fully has meant I’ve not needed chemotherapy and my children have a mother. What’s not to be grateful for?”

Clare believes that she owes her life to the Cancer Research UK researchers who discovered the faulty gene and when asked what she would want to say to them, she says, “Thank you, just thank you so much. I feel so blessed as I’ve been given the opportunity that my mum never had, to see my children growing up. They’ve given me, my children and my husband so much, I don’t know if there are words for that?”

But if there aren’t words - then there are certainly actions, which is why Clare now makes a monthly donation to Cancer Research UK and is considering leaving a gift to the charity in her Will.

“I feel like I need to give something back! And I was amazed to find out that a third of Cancer Research UK’s funding comes from gifts in Wills. That’s amazing! The previous generations have left me a massive gift, I just want to make sure researchers can continue doing their incredible work, so that I can offer the next generation the same thing, and that’s hope.”

Thousands of people are alive today thanks to the amazing generosity of people who have remembered Cancer Research UK in their Will. Over a third of the charity’s pioneering research leading the world in discovering new ways to fight over 200 cancers is funded by gifts in Wills. This also includes the life-saving work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses working tirelessly to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

So what’s life like for Clare now? “It’s cancer free and wonderful! I’ve got two boys, Patrick who is nearly eight and Joseph who is five and a half. It’s ace! Although sometimes I feel more like a referee than a mother.”

If you'd like to find out more about Cancer Research UK and how you can leave a lasting legacy that will help keep families together for longer please download a free information pack about gifts in Wills.

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