“Now that I know, I’m really glad I do.”

Jeanne Huybrechts understands the value of education.

Jeanne and her husband moved from the Midwest to California several decades ago, settling in Los Angeles, where they raised their children and built careers. Jeanne had already earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and government but went back to school to earn another degree in chemistry and then a doctorate in education leadership.

In her mid-30s, Jeanne began teaching chemistry and physics, but soon transitioned to school administration, ultimately serving in a variety of school leadership roles. When she retired in 2017, she was the head of school at one of the largest independent schools in Los Angeles.

Her “retirement” plan included the possibility of consulting work; one consulting job with a network of California schools evolved into a much larger job as the organization grew to one that now operates more than 200 schools in 18 states. In 2019, Jeanne became the company’s Chief Academic Officer, leading a team that conducts educational research, develops curriculum, provides resources and training for teachers, and evaluates school programs.

About the time Jeanne was starting her new position, she discovered she had Stage II invasive breast cancer. Treatment included a lumpectomy, followed by radiation, then hormone-blocking medication.

“Because my recommended treatment did not include chemotherapy, there was no visible manifestation of the disease, so once I had recovered from surgery, I just continued working,” she said.

Her radiation oncologist was Dr. Joanne Weidhaas. In gathering information about her family, Dr. Weidhaas learned that Jeanne’s sister’s medical history included multiple cancers and suggested that Jeanne take the test for the KRAS-variant. Both Jeanne and her sister took the test and were positive for the KRAS-variant. A third sister, who also took the test, was negative for the variant.

When genetic testing first became popular, Jeanne said, she often wondered if she would want to know what possible dangers might be in her genetic code. When the time came to decide about testing for the KRAS-variant, however, she said the decision felt very natural, given her diagnosis and her family’s history.

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“Now that I know, I’m really glad I do,” she said. “It’s just an extra piece of awareness. That knowledge has helped in my interactions with my gynecologist and the way she advises me. It makes me more aware and in tune with the possibilities, and that’s very powerful.”

What has struck her recently, she said, is the correlation between the KRAS-variant genetic marker and cancer as compared to other genetic markers that get a lot more “press,” which she thinks is unfortunate.

The experience has also shifted her thinking about genetic testing in general and the value of being educated about her own body.

“Before this personal experience with cancer and subsequent treatment, I would have been hesitant to undergo genetic testing, if suggested,” she said. “In the abstract, my feeling was that I wouldn’t want to know of genetic markers linked to disease; wouldn’t benefit from that knowledge. Now, I feel it’s very valuable, and I am grateful for the knowledge.”


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