Looking back, the signs were there.
Jacque Groves noticed her mother, Gladys, was becoming detached and less talkative, allowing Jacque’s father, Kenneth, to do most of the talking when she called.
“She knew she was going to die,” the 39-year-old mother of two says. “She was getting him ready for when she wasn’t going to be there.”
Gladys was first diagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago. After being cancer free for more than 10 years, the cancer returned. But this time, it had metastasized throughout her body, Jacque says.
“Her doctor gave her about two months to live, but my mom fought the cancer for over a year and a half. My mom was like, ‘You aren’t going to tell me when I’m going to die.’ She never gave up,” she says.
As her mother’s health deteriorated, Jacque, an endoscopy technician at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, began noticing sticky notes with black ink popping up around her parents’ Iola, Kansas, home.
“My mom started making my dad do things for himself — cooking dinner, doing laundry — he liked doing laundry,” she remembers.
Gladys died in May 2014.
Other women in Jacque’s family have had breast cancer, which gave her the suspicion that she, too, could fall victim to the disease. Jacque knew she had to do something; she couldn’t imagine her son Jackson, 5, and daughter, Kingston, 3, growing up without her.
“Dr. Pauls explained everything to me and we talked about the pros and cons of being tested,” Jacque says.
After a couple of weeks, her results were in. Jacque tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene, which means there is a good chance her children and younger brother would also test positive. Jacque says when her children are older, she will talk to them about being tested.
“I think I knew it was going to be positive before I even went in for the results,” Jacque says.
In January 2015, Jacque had a full mastectomy and reconstruction, and a year later, a total hysterectomy.
“I wasn’t sad about losing my breasts,” she says. “Even though I’m happy with having two children, I was sad that I would never have the chance to have another one if I changed my mind one day.”
With having her breasts and reproductive organs removed, Jacque’s chances of developing cancer are much lower, but she still frequently visits her doctor to check for abnormalities.
“I know I made the right decision,” she says. “I just couldn’t take that chance. It just shows that you have to trust your instincts, but you also have to be prepared to know the answer.”