Ignorance is not always bliss – especially in the case of 24-year-old Laura Barry.
After the heartbreak of seeing several relatives die from ovarian and breast cancer, the young nurse went for genetic testing last year.
A scan of her DNA, taken from a blood sample, proved what she had suspected – she was carrying a faulty gene that predisposes her to cancer.
But Laura said she is happier in the knowledge she has a higher chance of developing cancer because she can now take steps to reduce her risk.
Laura, along with three friends, Caroline Martin, Toni Ponting and Louise Ponting, has now set up an action group to raise more money for Cancer Research UK in the East Hampshire area.
‘I set up this group because I lost quite a few family members to cancer,’ says Laura, from Clanfield.
‘I found out I actually carry a gene that predisposes me to a particular cancer.
‘Without the research that has been done, they would not have been able to identify that gene in my family and they would not be able to treat it and lower the risk.
‘Also for other people who are going through it, we need to continue the research so they can get the best possible treatment.’
Laura lost her aunt, great-aunt, grandmother and grandfather to cancer – the youngest dying at just 49.
The genetic scan revealed she had inherited a faulty BRCA-1 gene.
A healthy version of the gene produces protein that stops unwanted cell growth, but Laura’s mutated gene means tumours can quickly develop.
Laura, who is married to 25-year-old accountant Andy, plans to have a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy once she has had children to reduce her risk.
She adds: ‘I am lucky I know because I can do things to lower my risk whereas other families don’t know.’
Laura and her friends set out on their first fundraising mission for Cancer Research at Queen Elizabeth County Park on Saturday.
The event, called Best Paw Forward, included a sponsored dog walk, more than 20 stalls, a bouncy castle, face painting and a barbecue.
Laura says cancer research is vital and her experience has changed her perspective on life.
‘Cancer seems to be affecting everybody in some way – that’s why I feel so passionately about it.
‘When I speak to people who have been affected by it, it’s heart-breaking.
‘This is the only thing I can do to try and make a small positive impact.’
Anyone interested in joining the action group can call Laura Barry on 07981 400268 or email email@example.com.