Cara Scharf majored in English in college, so she's always been good with words. But right after graduation, she discovered she would have to deal with four letters: BRCA. Cara was just 22 when she tested found out she was BRCA 1+ positive. It wasn't a complete surprise—her mother died of breast cancer when Cara was three, and her grandmother died of ovarian cancer. But Cara says she had never really thought about getting cancer herself. Then, in March 2011, she had a biopsy which showed malignancy in her right breast: Invasive ductal carcinoma. Cara wrote in a blog she started for family and friends, "This was not supposed to happen. I am only 25 years old. I was supposed to learn I had some fat lobules or whatever it was that people my age have. Not breast cancer."
Cara says her first thought when she heard the diagnosis was, "Am I going to die?" Her next thought was focusing on how to live. She opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction with implants at the GW Medical Faculty Associates and in late summer, she wrapped up eight rounds of chemotherapy, each two weeks apart. Though it was a difficult time of balancing treatment and work, and having to pass on summer outings with friends, Cara says the experience was made easier because all of her medical care could be coordinated in one place. It was comforting to know her oncologist was talking to her surgeon, who was talking to her plastic surgeon, and to know that all of them were working with her family in another state to make treatment as convenient as possible.
Cara says her prognosis now is good. She writes in her blog she feels "pretty awesome already. My hands are a little bit itchy and my thumbs and feet are still tingly from the neuropathy, plus I'm still bald, but I feel great." Cara's blog, Wearing My BRCA Genes, has had more than 10,700 hits from readers who have followed her story. Now she's ready to focus on what comes next, including hopes of traveling to all seven continents. She writes, "It's just normalcy... well... as much normalcy as one can feel after being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing a summer o'chemotherapy." It's a new chapter that's hard-won, and sure to be well-written.