A practical, personal guide to BRCA mutations and the inherited cancers they cause, from a woman who’s made her living researching and treating breast cancer—and lived through it herself
A long-time leader in breast cancer research and therapies at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Pamela Munster has advised countless women, and their families and loved ones, on how to deal with the unknowns and challenges of this life-altering diagnosis. But when at the age of 48 and otherwise in perfect health, she got a call saying that a routine mammogram showed “irregularities,” and later saw with her own eyes that she was positive for a BRCA2 mutation, she found herself suddenly, and frighteningly, on the other side of the examining table, a victim of the disease she was an expert in.
Weaving together her personal story of treatment and survival after a double-mastectomy, her coming to terms with her father’s pancreatic cancer (also related to BRCA), along with groundbreaking scientific findings about BRCA, Twisting Fate is a refreshing, inspiring, and immensely practical guide to living with these genetic mutations, and an invaluable reference for patients, their families and support systems, as well as doctors and other medical experts.
Moving beyond her own story, she draws on patients and case studies of the over 20 different forms of inherited cancers we know to be caused by BRCA—not just breast and pancreatic, but also prostate, fallopian tube, and melanoma. With authority, insight, and compassion, and driven by unflappable optimism, she offers a unique perspective on what it means to have any one of these life-changing diseases—and how to make informed, yet compassionate, decisions about your and your family’s biological fate.
Giving everyone touched by cancer an equally human and vulnerable face, Twisting Fate creates a safe space for genuine healing, honesty, and hope in a world otherwise dominated by fear.
"Utterly engrossing . . . This intense and informative memoir [is] told from the unique perspective of a compassionate physician being treated for the very disease she has spent her life treating."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Powerful, informative and gorgeously written, Twisting Fate describes Pamela Munster's journey from being a doctor to becoming a patient. Along the way, we learn about the inherited risk that she carries, and we begin to grapple with the meaning of that risk. With an unhesitating and clear-eyed instinct, Munster tackles some of the thorniest questions in cancer and medicine: our understanding of genetics and risk, the controversies and questions around screening and early detection, and the borderless kingdom of uncertainty and suffering that patients must enter in a world replete, and perhaps over-replete, with information. Munster's account is, at once, both intensely personal and of deep general interest to any human being who encounters cancer, especially breast cancer. I could not stop reading this important and beautifully rendered book."
"Dr. Pamela Munster has written an inspirational book that is an honest, moving and personal account of her experience with breast cancer. This book provides the kind of information every woman facing breast cancer needs. She expresses herself thoughtfully, with words that provide knowledge and hope. A moving story of courage and personal triumph."
--Joanne Horning, Founder and CEO, Susan G. Komen San Francisco Bay Area
"Twisting Fate is an unwaveringly honest account of what it's like to be on both sides of a breast cancer diagnosis--Dr. Pamela Munster isn't just a breast cancer oncologist, she's a breast cancer survivor. She explains her journey medically as she reveals what she's going through emotionally. Told with great compassion and tremendous empathy for the human spirit, this is a story of one woman who fights for her life while she fights for the lives of her patients and loved ones."
--Marisa Acocella, New York Times best-selling author of Ann Tenna and Cancer Vixen
"Twisting Fate is a truly thought-provoking and educational book. Dr. Munster demystifies the complex issues of genetic testing for BRCA and provides thoughtful justifications as to why one may (or may not) want to pursue such testing. As an oncologist and cancer patient, she answers common questions in and compiles new research evidence from the literature and from her own lab in an easy-to-understand manner. This book will be useful to both females and males, with or without cancer or known risks of cancer. Dr. Munster's stories are both touching and real, and teach us the importance of living fully in all states of health."
--Ai Kubo, PhD, research scientist and cancer epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, certified yoga instructor, wellness coach, and the founder of The Mindful Cleanse
"In Twisting Fate, Pamela Munster shares her deep and personal insight into BRCA-related odysseys across generations, geographies, science, and, importantly, eras of medical progress. Her unique perspective as both patient and physician scientist allows her to thoughtfully capture the multi-faceted and life-altering impact of BRCA gene mutations--and the quiet heroism unveiling in so many when facing some of the utmost challenges. This book goes far beyond reflection and education--it is empowering and a testament to optimism and personal advancement. A true resource for learning how to step up and protect yourself and your loved ones even facing some of the utmost challenges." --Thomas A. Bock, MD, Founder & CEO, HeritX
"The discoveries of the BRCA genes and the subsequent integration of genetic testing and medical interventions into clinical practice have literally been lifesaving. In Twisting Fate, Pamela Munster describes how knowing about gene mutations can save entire families." --Sue Friedman, DVM, Founder and Executive Director of FORCE and co-author of Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer