What I Want You To Know While I Wait For My Breast Cancer Gene Test Result: UPDATED
Medical advances are a wonderful but tricky thing. Naturally, the more we know, the more we are able to do as far as taking steps to keep ourselves healthy. Of course this extra knowledge can literally save our lives. However, it can also force us to make huge decisions based on percentages and the probability something will (or will not) happen. We all seem quite sure of what kinds if decisions we would make when faced with certain information but until the last several years, the availability of that information has only been posed as a hypothetical. Now, women have the chance to see whether or not they are likely to develop breast or ovarian cancers thanks to tests created to detect gene mutations that raise a woman’s likelihood of developing breast or ovarian cancer in her lifetime. If you want to learn more this website is very helpful in breaking it down.
For my part, I sent my little tube of blood to a genetic testing lab in Utah over a week ago. We found out this past January that my cousin had stage 1 breast cancer. She turned 30 a few months ago. Her mother (my mother’s sister) was diagnosed with it seven years ago in her early 50’s. My cousins and I have known since my aunt’s diagnosis that we would be facing a similar risk as our grandmother also had it in her early 60’s but needless to say, none of us expected that we would have to think about it at such a young age. To say that we were shocked is the understatement of the century. We were completely bowled over. Devastated. Terrified. We were not prepared to be facing this for at least another decade or more and now here it was, demanding that we take notice.
I am 32 years old. I have had problems in the past resulting in the loss of one ovary. My mother’s test was positive. I know the odds are probably not in my favor that my test will be negative. If the test is positive, I will be doing the same as my mother and undergoing a preventative double mastectomy, breast reconstruction and then a hysterectomy. This will mean I am done having children. It could mean early menopause. It will be major surgery and several weeks of recovery. But after almost seven years of a constant undercurrent of worry due to my previous ovarian issues it will also mean peace of mind and knowing I’ve done everything I could with the information I have so that I can hopefully live a long and healthy life. I can finally answer the question in the back of my mind ever since I lost my ovary- the question of whether or not I still had to worry. Now I know- either it’s not as much of a concern, or it is and I am able to do something about it. So that I can watch my children grow up. To me, the decision is a no-brainer to undergo all of these procedures because the possible alternative is too frightening to contemplate. I feel relief and a sense of closure. Now that I am being faced with it I can honestly say that no statistic about whether or not this gene could make me develop cancer could comfort me enough to stop me from taking these actions. I know for certain that I won’t be able to live happily with the knowledge that I could be a ticking time bomb. To me, there is no other option.
I’ve had a lot of wonderful people supporting me when they hear what I am facing and I do appreciate it but I have to say- the ones who tell me that they are sorry this is happening to me are mistaken with their sympathy. From my perspective, it is crazy to suggest that I am unlucky or that anyone should feel sorry for me. I am by no means a pitiable figure. I am being given an incredible chance at thwarting the very thing that could have been how I met my end. How many people can say that? How many people get a chance to stand in front of the speeding locomotive and know that they will probably come out unscathed? I won’t feel sorry for myself. I will be positive and strong knowing that I am taking all steps available to avoid something happening down the road. For many illnesses we do not have any way of knowing who it will strike nor do we have many concrete ways to prevent them. I will feel nothing but incredibly lucky to be given this chance so that hopefully, all will be well and by the time my kids are at risk, medicine will have advanced to the point that it is no longer a concern for them. It is my greatest wish.
For now, I wait. I should have my result any day now. Wish me luck.
UPDATE: Yesterday, I was fortunate to receive the news that my test was negative! I am in happy shock and incredibly grateful. Thank you to all of you who said such supportive and kind things- it means so much!