A Maidstone mum with the same deadly gene for cancer as Angelia Jolie says knowing she had it saved her life.
Allington Primary School teacher Alison Collie found out she had the rare BRCA1 mutation after she was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with her second child, Dylan.
Since then, having fought off the disease twice and knowing her risk of it returning, she has had a hysterectomy and her ovaries removed.
Reflecting on her decision to have treatment during her initial cancer diagnosis, Alison said: “I was just 28 and newly pregnant with my second child when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was a very worrying time and an awful decision to have to make.
"There just wasn’t the research around then to know what to do.
“We had a fantastic team at Maidstone Hospital who supported us and we went with the chemotherapy, based on the limited research that was available. It was the right decision."
After she was diagnosed, Alison went on to discover that she carries the faulty BRCA mutation.
"Because of my age, they decided to test my blood for the faulty gene," She explained. "Back then, the technology just wasn’t able to detect anything - so actually it came back as a non-carrier.
"The doctors were so convinced that it was a mutation, they sent my blood over to America. It was a very long process, but did turn out that I was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation."
Around one in 20 (5%) of the 50,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer every year carries an inherited gene fault like BRCA1.
Women with BRCA1 have a 65 to 79% lifetime risk of breast cancer and a 36 to 53% risk of ovarian cancer before the age of 80.
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, who also has BRCA1, announced in 2013 that she underwent a double mastectomy based on her positive test for the gene, aged just 37. It came after the death of her own mother, who lost her fight with ovarian cancer.
Alison says finding out about the rare deadly gene saved her life, her family's, and future generations.
She said: "The mutation gives you an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but not until your mid 40s. I decided before that stage in my life to have an elective hysterectomy and ovary removal.
"Both ovaries were found to be cancerous, so I underwent further surgery and another course of chemotherapy. Had I waited until my mid 40s, I probably wouldn’t be here today."
Alison added: "It is definitely better knowing, because you have choices - like the choice to have preventative surgery.
"They are not easy choices, at all, but you do have them. And so many people don’t have those choices, which is why Cancer Research UK is so important to my family.
"It's very interesting. You go to the genetics clinic up at Guy’s Hospital, and they go back through your family tree to try and work out the line of the faulty gene. It gives you information for future generations.
"All of my children are aware of the faulty gene. I actually inherited it from my father, so it doesn’t just run down the maternal line.
"It's equally as important for boys and girls to find out - or not, if they choose not to - but the implications are the same with passing it onto their offspring."
Two of her cousins have also been successfully treated for breast cancer.
'Had I waited until my mid 40’s, I probably wouldn’t be here today'
“That was another shock but forewarned is forearmed so we’re glad the testing is available,” she said.
Her son Dylan, now 19, will be a guest of honour at the Maidstone Race for Life at Mote Park today.
The teenager, inspired by his mum's bravery, is running 5km a day for a year to raise money for the charity which has helped her, Cancer Research UK.
The pair will sound the horn to start the participants and Dylan will then complete his 5km with the other fundraisers.
Alison said: "It was entirely Dylan’s decision to do this - I was in complete shock when he said he’d concocted this plan.
"It's inspirational and humbling, seeing him every day without fail, up and out the door running, working it around his job. I'm very proud."
Dylan started the challenge last October and has already raised nearly £2,700.
The sports psychology student is currently on a gap year and says the biggest challenge is trying to find time to fit a run in.
He said: “Before I started this challenge, running wasn’t my favourite thing but I’ve definitely improved.
"Some days are a lot harder than others but the motivation helps - partly that’s my mum and partly it’s that I’m also making memories too.
"Working with the NHS, as a teacher, as a full time mum to three kids and all of this whilst fighting her own personal battles with illness - watching my mum take on these challenges and conquering every one has inspired me to challenge myself for her and for all those who suffer or have suffered with cancer."
By the time he finishes, Dylan will have run 1,825km, roughly the same distance as Maidstone to Munich and back.
Lynn Daly, Cancer Research UK’s spokesman in Kent, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Dylan and his family for their support.
“Sadly, cancer affects all of us in some way. Whether that’s people are living with cancer, taking part in honour of or in memory of a loved one, or signing up to protect their own children’s future, everyone has a reason to Race for Life.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming people of all ages and abilities to Mote Park. Race for Life will be fun, emotional, colourful, uplifting and an unforgettable event this year.”