A courageous cancer survivor is raising awareness of a rare genetic mutation most commonly found among people of Ashkenazi descent.
Louise Ben-Nathan, 42, from Ealing, has recently entered remission after being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
The rare form of breast cancer can be linked to a mutation of the BRCA gene, carried by an estimated one-in-40 Ashkenazi Jews, who are 10 times more likely to inherit it.
Louise’s mum and grandmother were both diagnosed with cancers often associated with the genetic mutation, but she discovered about the risk following her diagnosis at the age of 40.
The former camera assistant described her surprise when her consultant asked whether she was Jewish, suggesting she could be a BRCA mutant. “I thought ‘I’ve become a member of the avengers or something’,” Louise joked, during an interview with Jewish News.
Louise, who worked in film and TV for 20 years, was planning a trip abroad when she found a lump in her left breast in January last year.
“I was quite lucky because I would have possibly been working on a film that was shooting abroad when I found my lump in the shower,” she said. “I was slightly horrified because I knew that if I’d been abroad I would have probably ignored it.
“I just thought to myself ‘I better get a test before I go travelling,'” she said. “I turned up going ‘it’s just a cyst, which I’ve had before’, and suddenly things didn’t quite go as planned.”
Louise received chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a lumpectomy and double mastectomy to treat her rare form of cancer not susceptible to hormone replacement therapy.
She is on the road to full recovery and is telling her story to raise awareness of the potential risk. “I am trying to get the Jewish community to talk about our health and take the time to get things checked out,” she said. “Because it is the case if you find things early, then the chances of them being treated are a lot higher.”
To this end, and to raise funds for cancer research, Louise is hosting a casino-themed fundraising night at a location in North West London on 3 November. She has hired a professional croupier company for the event that will also feature roulette tables, blackjack, poker and dice. Prizes will include a weekend trip away with a BMW and an iPad.
She is also planning a signed bottle auction on the Instagram account @cheers2charity, with celebrities Judi Dench, Damian Hill, Phoebe Waller-Bridge all tipped to take part.
All proceeds will go to the Institute for Cancer Research Research and Chai Cancer Care, the charity that supported Louise during her cancer journey.
You can find out more about the event on www.chaicancercare.org/get-involved/events.