Like Angelina Jolie, I too had a double mastectomy, says Dagenham teacher

Davina Hall

Davina Hall - Credit: Archant

This week Angelina Jolie announced she undergone an operation to remove both breasts to cut her risk of cancer. Now, teacher Davina Hall has spoken about her decision last year to also have a double mastectomy.

It was December 2009 when Davina first felt a “thickening” in her breast.

“Deep down I knew what it was because it runs in the family,” she said.

“I’ve known that since growing up.”

The 36-year-old, who works at Hunters Hall Primary School in Alibon Road, Dagenham, had lost her father Ian to cancer just eight months earlier and her aunt had died of the disease aged 30.

Her fears were realised when a biopsy confirmed that the lump was cancerous.

Davina had it removed and went on to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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“The entire experience was very challenging,” she said. “I lost my hair, my body shape changed and I felt very ill from chemotherapy.

“I was pretty angry about the cancer – I couldn’t believe it had already ravaged our family and was back again.”

A further blow came when Davina discovered she, her father and her brother, Anthony, 29, all had a faulty gene that made them more susceptible to cancer.

As a carrier of the mutated BRCA1 gene, Davina had a very high chance of developing breast cancer – up to 80 per cent – so she decided to undergo a double mastectomy to cut the risk, the procedure that Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie this week announced she had recently undergone for the same reason.

Having both breasts removed sounds like an agonising decision, but Davina said it was a “no brainer”.

“I decided to risk further surgery because as a BRCA1 carrier my chances of developing breast cancer were so high,” she said.

Davina said she was glad to know about the faulty gene because it gave her control and knowledge for her family’s next generation.

It’s also given her control over her own life in the here and now.

“Cancer has improved my life,” she said. “I don’t worry about the things I used to worry about now. I do more things for myself.

“Nobody knows how long they’ve got. You have to live for today.”