Before she'd reached age 35, Cara* had endured tumor-removal surgery, chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery.
"When you're faced with your own mortality after you get a diagnosis like cancer, you think: What can I do with my time on this earth?" she says. "You realize how precious it is."
Out of context, 35 might sound young for such a potent awareness of one's mortality, but for Cara, it's long been hard to ignore. Having been diagnosed with the BRCA-1 mutation at age 22 — a genetic abnormality that indicates predisposition for breast and ovarian cancer — then stage 1 breast cancer at 25, she's already spent more than enough time confronting the hard realities of cancer.
And in the grand scheme of things, she's hardly an outlier. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. is under the age of 45. Which is why Refinery29 is working alongside CDC to share empowering, eye-opening stories from real women as they cope with the realities of both cancer treatment and preventative measures at a young age. Watch the video above to hear moving, personal narratives from Cara, Charity*, and Cassie* — three women who all tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation.
Then, for more information on getting proactive about your health, visit CDC's website for countless resources to help you better understand and take charge of your risk for breast cancer today.
*Last names & identifying details have been omitted to protect the identities of the participants