Maria's Story


Standing in the shower, Maria discovered a lump in her breast. Concerned, she immediately followed up with her physician. The diagnosis: breast cancer. Maria was 35 years old.

Dr. Ethan Schram at the Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center guided Maria through her treatment, and Dr. Bryan Henry and Sue Turner, NP, CNM, assisted Maria with the genetic testing. Cancer runs in her family. Maria’s maternal grandmother suffered from post-menopausal breast cancer in her fifties, and her mother suffered endometrial cancer at 48 years old. One month after Maria’s breast cancer diagnosis, Maria was told she was BRCA1 positive. Maria‘s high risk of 87 percent for contracting breast cancer had already been realized. She had to face a 40-60 percent risk of ovarian cancer during her lifetime.

In fact, Maria may have saved members of her family. Learning from Maria’s experience, her sister had genetic testing and tested positive for BRCA1. Considering the overwhelming odds of contracting breast cancer and ovarian cancer, she too opted to have a double mastectomy, followed two years later with a hysterectomy.

Maria has three daughters, and just recently her oldest, 19 years old, asked to be tested. The results were negative; she falls into the normal population, a great relief to Maria. Her other two daughters are too young to make this decision right now, but they will be armed with the information to make intelligent decisions when they are ready. It is
now Maria’s mission to help others who face these difficult decisions.

“Discovering that I am BRCA1 positive has been a great finding for me and my family. My sister’s discovery has made it possible for her to make lifesaving choices. For my daughters, this information will be very helpful as well. They now have choices, not a sentence. This is what I hope people will learn from my story. Knowing your family history can save your life and the lives of those that you love most.”

Visit our website to learn more about the Adventist Health Early All-Around Detection (AHEAD) program, or make an appointment in our Napa or St. Helena location today (707) 967-7550