GIGI Milone never expected life-changing news when she answered a phone call on an otherwise ordinary day last year.
The 28-year-old listened as her dad, who lives in the UK, explained he had the BRAC1 gene fault and she might also want to get tested.
“When he said BRAC1, I was like ‘what the heck is that?’ and he said it was the one made famous by Angelina Jolie,” she recalls.
“It was scary and a lot to take in.”
The Apollo Bay resident and her two sisters elected to have genetic testing and all three were found to have the gene mutation which increases the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
“If one of your parents has it there is a 50/50 per cent chance no matter what – whether it’s your mum or dad,” Gigi says.
“So it was a bit unlucky for us to all have it.”
Gigi initially struggled with the news and admits to “burying my head in the sand” while coming to terms with what it meant for her future.
It was during that time she discovered the Pink Hope Foundation which she says was a beacon of hope and support.
“I joined the online community and it made me realise it was time to face it head on,” she says.
“I had decisions to make about how I was going to handle this and was I going to have surgery.”
Gigi’s experience with the foundation instilled her with a desire to give back and encourage more women to regularly check their breasts.
She decided to combine her two passions – her job as general manager of the Apollo Bay Distillery and breast cancer prevention awareness.
The result is Angel Hope Gin – a delicious pink gin released in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. For every bottle sold, $5 is donated to the Pink Hope Foundation.
The label even features a mermaid illustration by the distillery’s chef and talented artist, Mel Zangger.
“I spoke to the owners of the distillery and they loved the idea,” Gigi says.
“It’s a very refreshing gin, with flavours of rose and vanilla, and also some lilly pilly and orange. We are really pleased with it.
“It’s wonderful to think someone buys a bottle of gin they are going to share with their friends and that simple action is going to help so many people.”
To coincide with the Hope Gin launch, the distillery also released a video in which Gigi and other women from Apollo Bay share their stories to promote the cause.
“I wanted to demonstrate that breast cancer doesn’t just affect the person who has it – it’s everyone, the friends, the family, husbands, wives, kids,” she says.
“The video also allowed me to connect with amazing women in the community I would never have met otherwise.”
Gigi has decided to go ahead with preventative surgery and is looking forward to a bright future with her fiancé and greatest support, Dean Mangion.
“Once I’m post-surgery I look forward to a future without having to worry about the fear of breast cancer and planning our wedding when we can all travel again,” she says.
“The joy of what life will be like is such a wonderful end goal – it’s what is driving me.”
To discover more about Pink Hope Gin, go to apollobaydistillery.com.au/pink-hope.