7/24/2014 4:31 PM
by Karen Franklin
ANSTED - Mickey Stevenson was 51 years old and single when she made the toughest decision of her life.
"Being a woman -- it's just something you know you have to do," Mickey said. "No one can do it for you. You've got to take the first step and say, 'I'm going to beat this and I want to survive.'"
She had always been cancer free, but to keep it that way, surgeons removed her breasts and ovaries as a preventative measure. She would soon lose her oldest brother, Virgil, to lung and kidney cancer when he was 64.
She was caring for her oldest sister, Stella, when she passed away after a painful battle with breast cancer at the age of 41.
"Thirty-some years ago, and you got diagnosed with cancer -- for my sister it was almost a death sentence," Mickey said. "There weren't a whole lot of people that many years ago that actually survived cancer."
Mickey had several aunts pass away from cancer. Her mother had the disease when she was pregnant. Her husband of four years, Chuck Stevenson, battled through it at the age of 21. Mickey, who is now 61, has been surrounded by it.
"I wanted so much more," she told WOAY. "I wanted to be here for my kids. I didn't want my kids to have to take care of me and do for me because they all were starting their lives at that particular time. I wanted to be around to see my grandkids, and if there's anything I could do -- your children are the gold at the end of the rainbow, and your grandkids."
By her early 50s, Mickey had already had as many as eight biopsies. That year, while working at a Parkersburg car dealership, she tested positive for the mutation of the BRCA gene, which gives men and women a higher likelihood they'll develop cancer.
"They said, 'You're positive,' and I remember my customer was sitting on the other side of the desk, and I just kind of turned around because it hit hard, and I knew my decision was going to have to come fast."
Her three daughters were tested for the inherited gene. One, Jackie Eades, is positive. Her sons have not been tested.
"When I first found out that I was positive, I can remember crying and thinking, 'Look what I've done. I've passed that on to six precious lives,' and I really felt guilty for a long time.
She also has 14 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
"I've held my grandbabies and literally looked at them and think, 'I wonder if you got grandma's gene' because I have that gene. It's something to think about."
Although her family history includes cancer, she hopes her family's future will not.
"Our faith that there will be a great reunion one day -- I've never lost hold of that that there will be a great gathering, and we'll all be healed in perfect bodies."