A paralegal facing an 88 per cent chance of developing breast cancer without preventative surgery has raised about £2,500 for a charity close to her heart.
Nicola Downey, 26, who is based in Hudgell Solicitors’ London office, tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene, which means she has an 88.8 per lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, as well as a 60 per cent lifetime risk of ovarian cancer, compared to the 12 per cent risk faced by the general population.
After various expert consultations at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, she has made the potentially life-saving decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in a major operation early next year.
Determined to raise awareness of the disease and being a carrier of the faulty gene, Nicola has dedicated the past three months to organising Pink Picnic in the Park to generate funds for the Breast Cancer Now charity, which is working on preventative action and a cure for breast cancer by 2050.
More than 100 family, friends and colleagues turned out for the event in London’s Regents Park on Sunday, August 16, with entertainment, activities, goody bags, food, drinks and games all part of the day, followed by a pub quiz afterwards.
Nicola, of North London, said: “We haven’t got the final total yet but it’s about £2,500 and I am absolutely delighted and overwhelmed.
“It’s so much more than I could have ever hoped for. In my head, after paying for overheads, I would have been happy with anything between £500 and £1,000 but it has completely surpassed that.
“I would like to thank everyone involved for their help. I feel like I have used the word ‘thank you’ so much, it has lost its meaning. But I don’t know how else to thank everybody and it was such a wonderful day and we had between 40 and 50 people playing a game of rounders at one point.
“I can’t believe the support I received and I’m so grateful. What we have raised speaks for itself.
“I couldn’t have done it without my family and friends helping me and I’m ecstatic with how it all went.”
Nicola’s decision to opt for preventative surgery came after her mother, Lorraine, lost her battle against breast cancer in 1996, aged just 36.
Lorraine was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 32 and passed away after developing secondary breast cancer four years later, just before Nicola’s eight birthday.
A genetic link for the faulty gene had not been made by medical experts at the time of Lorraine’s death and her blood was stored to enable Nicola and her three sisters to be tested in the future if they wished.
With advances in medical research since 1996, three of the four sisters have now tested positive for the gene and Nicola made plans for the surgery.
It will involve a four to five-hour operation but will reduce her chance of developing breast cancer to just four per cent.
Having had time to reflect on Sunday’s event, Nicola said: “As it was such a success, I feel I can put a line under it for now.
“We may make it a yearly event. But I can now focus on my next appointment in September and hopefully find out when my operation will be.
“I wanted something really positive out of all this and we’ve achieved that, beyond what I ever imagined.”