Since the day I received the news I was BRCA2 positive I’ve run the gamut of emotions. I mean, I know that’s not an earth shattering declaration, I was told my lifetime risk of breast cancer is extremely high, along with a higher risk of other cancers including ovarian. So, yes, I’ve got feelings about it. A lot of feelings and not all of them noble and empowered.
I can’t lie, I’ve never been big on going to the doctor, but in the last 7+ months I’ve been to the doctor more times than in my whole life combined. Physicals, blood tests, mammograms, MRIs, invasive (excruciating!) vaginal ultrasounds and consultation after consultation. I’ve spoken to a genetic counselor, an oncologist, a gynecologic oncologist and a breast surgeon. I’ve heard about my risk of cancer, I’ve learned about mastectomies and hysterectomies. I’ve also googled every medical term I hear. I’ve looked at before and after photos of mastectomies. I’ve followed women on Instagram going through the surgeries now and watched their process and recovery. During it all I’ve watched my mother battle and go into remission from ovarian cancer.
Having this mutant BRCA gene is a head trip above anything else, at least for me. I spend my days thinking about cancer, I watch my mother battle cancer, I sit in waiting rooms with people battling cancer – I don’t have cancer. I feel guilty about my self-pity because – I. Don’t. Have. Cancer. I should be thankful every second that science has allowed me to take steps to prevent cancer and in many ways I am.
I must also admit I’ve got some self pity. I want to go back to life before cancer seeped in. Before my mom got cancer. Before I laid awake nightly wondering if cancer was growing in my breasts or ovaries right now. Did the tests miss it? Am I taking too long to get the prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and hysterectomy? Am I giving cancer time to grow as I say goodbye to my breasts and ovaries? My sister (who is on the same BRCA journey as me) and I had a bit of a laugh yesterday realizing we were running out of tests and doctor appointments, the time for surgery is rapidly upon us. No more stalling. We laughed because that’s what we do. I hate she’s going through this too, but we lean on each other, and that’s invaluable.
I sat in the treatment room yesterday with the breast surgeon as he told me how he’d lower my cancer risk from 87% to something like 5% I just have to get rid of these dangerous breasts and replace them with some safer ones. He kinda bragged about his success rate and how good he was – I liked that about him. Although sometimes when he was talking I heard the teacher on Charlie Brown Wa Wa Wa Wa Wa. I tried to listen to every word, but my brain wanted to go somewhere else. I tried to absorb as much as possible. I left and walked through the waiting room full of women wearing bright scarves waiting for their chemo appointments.
I don’t have cancer. I’m lucky. This isn’t where I want to be with my life, but here I am. I want to be brave like my mom. I want to be empowered like the previvors on Instagram. Their strength and courage is awe inspiring. I want to be like them. I want to get on with life. So, as the endgame of surgeries is approaching I just want to have the courage to move forward and beat cancer before it even has a chance. I want to be strong.
If you’re out there reading this because you’ve googled BRCA after getting your results, just know you’re not alone. Message me if you want to talk to someone who has no idea what the hell she’s doing, who feels some self pity, has doubts and yet is still moving forward because that’s what I must do. I don’t have cancer and god willing you don’t either.
The long goodbye to my ovaries and breasts is coming to an end this year and I’m going to try to face it with the same hope, faith and courage that my mom battled cancer. I’m getting the chance to beat cancer before it even enters the fight and that is a gift.