MARISOL ROSAS was 8 years old when her mother, Celia Bazua de Rosas, died from ovarian cancer in 1981. It was her mother’s second cancer diagnosis. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42, shortly after Rosas, her sixth and last child, was born. For Rosas and her brothers and sisters, who were all raised in Baja California, Mexico, “there was always a concern,” she says, “that this could happen to any of us.”
As the siblings got older, their worries grew as three cousins on their mother’s side of the family were diagnosed with cancer. “One had breast cancer that spread to her brain,” says Rosas. “Another had breast cancer and then had a recurrence. Another had breast and ovarian cancer and then died of pancreatic cancer. I knew there was something going on, but I didn’t know what to do about it.”
Then, in 1998, Rosas got a call from a cousin who had moved from Mexico to California. Her cousin explained that her doctor had told her about a new blood test that could look for signs of an increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer. Her test had come back positive. She was calling to tell Rosas that she and her siblings should get tested, too.