Gala raises money to fight ovarian cancer
Marloe Esch was just 29 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a shocking revelation that led her on a quest for answers. An oncology nurse by trade, the Verona native knew she had a grandmother who had died in her 40s of metastatic breast cancer, but she never really considered herself to have a strong family history of the disease.
“She had four sons, our dad included, and nothing showed up in their generation at all. So I didn’t think there was a family connection in any way,” Esch said.
Genetic testing revealed she inherited a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. The BRCA1 gene is a gene that produces tumor suppressor proteins. Such a mutation is associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer and also several additional types of cancer. Her first goal, along with treating the cancer itself, was to contact her closest family members so they could be tested for the genetic mutation so they could prevent any cancers before they started.
“The idea was to send out this letter to anybody on my father’s side and just let them know that I had been diagnosed to this mutation, and it’s passed from parent to child,” Esch said.
It was in February 2015 that Esch’s older sister, Kassie Maier, opened her mailbox in Cross Plains and found the letter that would change her life.
“I was like, ‘Oh, a letter from Marloe, what a nice surprise,'” said Maier.
But the surprises would just keep on coming, and not all of them good.
Though it took Maier almost a year to go through with the testing, she did it just in the nick of time.
“I found out the end of February that I had the exact same gene mutation as Marloe,” said Maier.
Past the child-bearing stage of her life, Maier had to make a tough decision.
“They recommended that I have my tubes and ovaries out to get the estrogen out which feeds the cancer. When I got my results back from that, I had high-grade ovarian cancer on my right ovary,” Maier said.
Caught very early, her prognosis is excellent, and the cancer was contained to her right ovary. She is now going through chemotherapy treatments to eliminate any cancer cells that may remain.
“I’m so thankful for the letter she sent because obviously ovarian and those types of cancers are silent, and you usually find them in the late stages,” said Maier.
Esch is now trying to convince remaining family members, both male and female, about the gene mutation that may run in the family.
“I knew that I had to share this information. I knew that it was important, but I also felt a little bit of guilty for telling people because I felt it was bad news,” Esch said.
Bad news that could have been a whole lot worse for Maier.
“Some people think you’re really overreacting and stuff, but until it’s you and everything you go through when you’re making those decision,” said Maier. “But if I would have never done any of the testing I probably would have done a much different story.”
Both sisters will be honored Friday night, among other survivors, at the Eighth Annual Sparkle of Hope Gala at Monona Terrace, to benefit the UW Carbone Cancer Center’s Gynecologic Oncology Center. Learn more at sparkleofhopemadison.com.