Upstate woman advocates for cancer testing - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate woman advocates for cancer testing

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The Scheib family. (Source: Kelly Scheib) The Scheib family. (Source: Kelly Scheib)

Kelly Scheib is a wife and mother of three, which is motivation for everything she does, including staying on top of her health. 

Her family is what prompted her to take a test that would provide answers that may be difficult to hear.  

"My BRCA journey is an interesting journey because I don't fit the profile,” said Scheib.

Scheib pursued answers about her own health risks after her 34-year-old brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The disease is rare in young men. 

Since her brother is athletic, she decided it was important to find out the genetic component to his cancer and a possible connection to other cancers that she could be at higher risk of developing.  Scheib did some research and found out there is a link between pancreatic cancer and the BRCA mutation. 

What is BRCA?  It is a gene mutation that puts someone at greater risk for some types of cancer.  For example, a person with the BRCA gene mutation is seven times more likely to get breast cancer and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer before the age of seventy.  Scheib learned that a positive test would also make her more likely to get other types of cancer too.

Scheib found out her test was positive, but getting that answer wasn’t easy.  She went to several doctors who discouraged her from getting the simple blood test.  Finally, she found a medical professional who was willing to perform the test. 

"So I was able to find someone who I had a great relationship with over at my employer at the time.  A nurse practitioner who was willing to run the test for me and lo and behold.  Here we are," said Scheib. "It was a shock to everyone, including physicians. I had gone and seen a number of physicians who said no way that I had BRCA because I don't fit the profile. I don't have a history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer."

Since finding out she was at higher risk, Scheib has spent hours with her genetic counselor at the GHS Cancer Institute in Spartanburg.  That counselor, Kara Bui, creates charts that show her who has cancer in a family, who doesn’t, and who could be at risk down the line.  Bui said about Scheib, "the gene mutation that she tested positive for is mainly associate with breast and ovarian cancer."

"We take something that we call a four generation pedigree.  So we ask about everybody you are blood related to.  We care about every cancer type and then, we check to see if there's a pattern to go with any of the 100 genes that can cause patterns in a family," said Bui. 

Bui compares her work to reading a genetic road map.  She looks for patterns and compares those to blood test results to determine if someone has an elevated risk.  The goal is to prevent them from getting diagnosed from cancer in the first place. 

"I specialize in families that have strong family histories of cancer.  So, I might meet with a patient who has not as cancer themselves, so I do carrier testing to find out if they are high-risk for developing it someday."

For Kelly Scheib, that means taking precautions.  Her brother also has the BRCA gene mutation and so does her father.  Other relatives may have it too. 

She said, "My whole family will be screened every single year.  I will have exams every single year for the rest of my life, but at least I have doctors who are listening."

Scheib is hopeful her story might help others ask questions and push for answers, not only for themselves, but also for the good of their families.  In addition to her efforts to raise awareness about the BRCA gene mutation, she is also campaigning for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for Man or Woman of the Year on behalf of her grandmother.  She has beaten lymphoma several times.   Scheib is also involved in a fundraiser for the LLS.

"You have to be your own advocate.  I don't do anything I do for me, I do it for my children and I knew if there was something that would potentially hurt me, I had to deal with it because I have a responsibility to be here for my three kids   I didn't have to sit back and wait for cancer."

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