DALLAS The photo is not Julie Shrell's favorite. She has little hair on her head, and there's a bandage on her chest.

It marked the spot where her port had been; where doctors injected chemotherapy into her body, trying to kill her cancer.

Even though it's not a picture she loves, it's proof of a journey from being a patient to being proactive.

At 48, Shrell was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She wasn't shocked; cancer ran in her family. Her paternal grandmother had fought it in both breasts.

After the diagnosis, Shrell immediately wanted to know if she carried a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which increases the risk of breast cancer.

"I said, 'I need to know if I have the gene.'" she recalls telling her gynecologist. She was positive. She had an 80 percent change of developing breast cancer, too.

"It wasn't a matter of 'if,' it was 'when,'" she said.

So Shrell had her breasts removed.

"In December 2012, after I'd been two years clean from ovarian cancer, I decided to have the double mastectomy. I did that at the end of 2012, and in April of this year I had my reconstruction," she said. "Best thing I've ever done; the easiest decision I've ever made."

Shrell's breast cancer risk is less than 10 percent now, she said.

The double mastectomy is the same decision Angelina Jolie made, and Shrell would like to see the star do something else soon.

"My guess is she'll have a hysterectomy," said Shrell, who wishes she would have listened to a doctor who saw something irregular in her ovaries two years before her cancer diagnosis. Jolie's mother died of ovarian cancer.

"She has given everyone a great gift by being so beautiful and a sex symbol and saying, 'My life is more important; my children having a mother is more important,'" Shrell said.

Jolie said she did it for her children. So did Shrell, who has a son and 20-year-old twin daughters, Marissa and Simone, both juniors at Indiana University.

"It's scary to think we could possibly go through it," Marissa admitted.

They plan to be tested for both cancer genes after college.

"I want to know, because it's my body... it's me... so why not know?" Simone asked.

Julie Shrell and other ovarian cancer survivors started the Be the Difference Foundation last year. They have raised more than $600,000 for ovarian cancer research.


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