Deadly gene robs Walk for Women’s Cancer Perth fundraiser of her family

Quinns Rock hairdresser Melinda Bryenton-Rochard has raised more than $30,000 for the Harry Perkins Institute.
Quinns Rock hairdresser Melinda Bryenton-Rochard has raised more than $30,000 for the Harry Perkins Institute.

WHEN Angelina Jolie chose to have a double mastectomy, and then later, her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, the number of women around the world who underwent testing for the deadly BRCA 1 genetic mutation increased dramatically.

The BRCA 1 and BRCA2 gene faults are known to increase significantly the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in women who carry the gene.

Quinns Rock hairdresser Melinda Bryenton-Rochard understood why so many women chose to be tested.

Like the Hollywood actor, Melinda also has a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancers.

She lost her mother, grandmother and great grandmother to the diseases.

“The first time mum had cancer I was only six years old,” she said.

“That was breast cancer and then she went into remission for five or six years before she had a brain tumour, then it was about another five years before she had ovarian and then bowel cancer.”

At the time of Angelina Jolie’s surgery, the actor announced she carried the BRCA1 gene.

Thankfully, Melinda is not a carrier, but it is in her family.

Melinda was 18 when her mother died. Her loss has had a life-long impact.

Melinda said the obvious way to honour her mother was to support cancer research because only discoveries in the laboratory could change the course of cancer.

For the past three years, Melinda has participated in the Hawaiian Walk for Women’s Cancer, a charity event that directs funds to cancer research at Perth’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

This will be Melinda’s fourth walk and it comes at a very poignant time.

“I’ve just reached a birthday that mum didn’t make it to, so this is quite important to me,” she said.

“I want to make sure someone else doesn’t lose their mum.”

Melinda and a small group of women who live in the northern suburbs are in a team called Mel’s Belles.

Each weekend they train, usually walking along the coast. Their latest training walk was 24km, from Burns Beach to Hilary’s and back.

The Hawaiian Walk for Women’s Cancer is a 35km or 42km one day event on Saturday, May 4.

Melinda raised over $16,000 last year and already she has raised more than $9,500 in 2019.

In the past four years, she has raised more than $30,000 making her one of the highest individual fundraisers supporting the event.

Cancer research at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research is investigating new approaches to treat breast cancer including triple negative breast cancer, which does not respond well to any treatments so far.

To register for the Hawaiian Walk for Women’s Cancer, visit www.walkforwomenscancer.org.au or to donate to Melinda’s walk, go to bit.ly/melinda-walk.

Fast facts:

The inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene fault causes 5 per cent of breast cancers and 15 per cent of ovarian cancers.

BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene fault carriers are 60 per cent more likely to develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime and are 80 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer.

Less than 1 per cent of the population carry the high-risk gene fault, BRCA1 or BRCA2.