When Jessica Clapp lost her mother in 2011, it was the most difficult time of her life. She’ll always miss her mother’s infectious laugh. Cynthia Clapp was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer and bravely battled the disease for more than two and half years before losing her life.
Sadly, Cynthia did not immediately recognize the symptoms that led to her diagnosis. When at 50 years old, she visited her doctor because she felt tired and bloated, she just chalked up her symptoms to menopause. Jessica stood by her mother’s side as the devastating news was delivered: the ovarian cancer test had come back positive. Without a thought, Jessica supported her through doctor’s appointments, two rounds of chemotherapy and a drug trial study.
Living through her mother’s suffering was a wake-up call for Jessica. Through the process, she was forced to consider genetic testing because she now realized she faced a higher-than-average ovarian cancer risk herself. Surprisingly, though, genetic counselling and testing covered by the Ontario Ministry of Health was only available to patients diagnosed with cancer, or relatives of people with a known hereditary cancer syndrome or a strong family history of the disease. That left her out of the running.
It wasn’t until two years after her mother’s death that Jessica found hope. She discovered the Prevent Ovarian Cancer Program (POCP), a funded initiative that provides free potentially life-saving genetic testing to 500 women who could be at risk for ovarian cancer. The goal of the program is to identify women who reside in Ontario with a first-degree relative who died from high grade serious ovarian cancer, offer a genetic test to identify BRCA1/2 gene mutations, and provide an opportunity to decrease their lifetime risk for developing the disease.
It’s the same genetic testing that identified Angelina Jolie’s BRCA1 mutation. After losing her mom to ovarian cancer, Jolie went on to have her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as a preventative measure.
Jessica could relate. She was determined to take all the precautions available and was even prepared to have a full hysterectomy and mastectomy if needed. Luckily, that choice never had to be made. Thanks to the POCP program, Jessica was relieved to learn that her results came back negative. It was almost as if an angel had intervened to give her the peace of mind she needed. Maybe it was her mom.
Spread the word! Women who live in Ontario can participate in POCP genetic testing on the Prevent Ovarian Cancer Program website where they can register for an account and request an online eligibility questionnaire. If you qualify, blood tests can be taken at a LifeLabs facility and samples are sent to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.
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