Young mother undergoes surgery to avoid breast cancer

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FARMINGTON — Iris Morgan is a healthy wife and mother, and she wants to stay that way.

After genetic testing showed she was positive for a gene mutation that affected other family members, Morgan, 32, will undergo a double mastectomy next Thursday in an effort to prevent breast cancer.

Her mother died at age 40 from breast cancer. Her grandmother died from breast cancer, and her mother’s two sisters have survived the disease, she said.

While preparing herself and her family for the upcoming surgery, she has others on her mind, those who have been or are now challenged by the disease.

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Two days before her surgery, she intends to ask Farmington selectmen to allow her to hang pink lights in Meetinghouse Park during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

October is still months away, but, Morgan said, “It’s on my mind because of what I’m going through.” 

In a letter to the Board of Selectmen, she said, “If the presence of these lights makes just one woman take steps to procure her breast health, I will consider it a successful endeavor.”

Morgan, a lab technician at Franklin Memorial Hospital, has the support of the Martha B. Webber Breast Care Center at FMH in her efforts to remember and support community members whose lives have been affected by the disease, she said.

Her husband, Ryan, a Farmington selectman, has been extremely supportive, she said.

A couple of years ago she sought treatment for a spot on her breast. After learning her family history, a local surgeon encouraged her to have the genetic testing done. She has the BRCA2 gene mutation. It can dramatically increase her chances of getting breast cancer, but the double mastectomy lowers her chances to less than 1 percent, she said.

The test kit sat on her refrigerator gathering dust for nearly a year.

Morgan’s mother found her first lump when she was 33 and died when Morgan was 19. She knew it was time to take the test. She sensed it would come back positive for the gene, she said.

Her children, Kyla, 7, and Kelton, 2½,  have a 50-50 chance of having the gene, which can also cause pancreatic, stomach and melanoma cancers. She wants her two younger brothers to undergo the testing, too, she said.

Morgan will undergo the double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at Faulkner Hospital in Boston. The recovery process can take up to a year, but she won’t face chemotherapy or radiation afterward, as breast cancer patients often do.

“It’s a lot to go through, but the alternative … my mom was so sick for so many years. I don’t want to go through that,” she said.

According to FMH figures, 34 of 96 cancer diagnoses in 2009 were breast cancer, Morgan said.

The surgery lessens her chance of breast cancer, but the gene will remain, meaning she must be vigilant about prevention and testing for other cancers.

She hopes to remind others to be vigilant, too.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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