The Other Shoe


The news of a BRCA mutation in my family has sent me on a rollar coaster of feelings lately.  My mother got tested as a result of her recent breast cancer diagnosis and our family history.  For us, a positive result is actually a good thing. Our risk of cancer has already been high because of the family history.  A positive actually helps us understand why we’ve had so many cancers in the family and gives hope to the younger generation to prevent it or possibly be relieved of the worry altogether.  I reminded myself several times that I should be wishing for a positive result.  But hearing it from my mom that day—“Yep, it’s positive” as she walked out for a smoke—still gave me a knot in my stomach.  Irrational as it might be, I didn’t want to think of us having “the breast cancer gene.”  Part of me somehow thought it might be better for mom this way: less chance of reoccurence, less agressive cancer types (can’t say that belief was backed up by any evidence).

I know that if I really want to make everything back to normal for myself, I should be wishing that I could go back to the minute before my mother told me she had breast cancer.  That minute when I was still laughing with her on the phone over the misadventures of my cat and my upcoming move back towards home after five years abroad which was only two weeks away.  That minute before she said the dreaded words, “I have something serious to talk about.”  Those next words I heard, put a huge lump in my throat.  I asked with my voice shaking, “Is it cancer, or it is…what do they call..ben—”  Before I could finish the question, my mom responded plainly: “Oh yes, it’s cancer.”

For next half hour she told me everything she knew up to that point and reassured me that she was taking it in stride, but I was struggling to stay on the phone.  I hung up, walked to the bathroom with my girlfriend following me worriedly.  Sat on the toilet and cried.

That moment, I do remember wishing everything that just happened to me and my mom could be erased.  I knew immediately that this news changed everything.  All my lingering doubts about moving back home vanished.  It was, indeed, the thought of being able to see her in just two weeks that made the news at least digestable. Suddenly the move was imbued with so much more meaning then ever before.  And I knew that it wasn’t just an unlucky year for us—with my grandmother being diagnosed with breast cancer a few months earlier.  That moment on the phone was the sound of the other shoe dropping, three and half years after my aunt passed away from metastasized breast cancer.

That moment was when I should have known that I couldn’t wish away the risk anymore.  But I guess that realization didn’t happen until I heard the test results “positive for deleterious mutation” three months later.  That was the day when I begin to stay up late at night reading research papers, message boards, and searching every permutation of our missing DNA sequence.  Since then I have been vacillating between quietly going on with my life and obsessively digging for all the information I can about this mutation.  The latter has been predominating for the last few days.  But sleeping at 3, 4, 5am isn’t going to help me.  I need to find a way to get back to living, not “previving.”  So I am christening this blog…”brca2blog”…to be a place where I can freely dump all these brca thoughts down and let go of these worries from my mind. And with that said, I’m going to sleep.


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