Friday, October 25, 2013
I wrote this blog post a few months ago, and quickly took it down. I wasn't ready to share this at that point. However over time, I've become more and more certain of my decision, and having met women who are willing to share things like this, become less afraid of what may come....
The main reason I took it down was twofold. On one side I didn't want to hear judgmental comments (and TRUST me, you look into the subject, and you will hear plenty of people voicing their ignorant thoughts). And second, and I say this kindly, but I don't want to be flooded with advice. Advice like, raise your ph levels, lower your ph levels, don't eat corn, don't live in a house that's been treated with fire-retardant wood (seriously) do this, don't do that....while I do believe most advice comes from a good heart the truth is it can be obnoxious and ill-timed. Also, with something like this on the line, I really don't plan on taking advice that someone found in an interesting article over what my doctor is telling me. Maybe that's ignorant in their opinion, but it's my life.
So, kind of a weighty subject today..and kind of a controversial one to some people. I've decided to have genetic testing done to see if I carry the brca mutation (basically, the breast cancer gene). Cancer in my family strikes young, and hard...I've lost two aunts in the past six years (who both got breast cancer in their early 40's), had an uncle get diagnosed with breast cancer, and recently learned that I had a 2nd cousin who passed away at 40 from ovarian cancer. I went and spoke with a counselor two or three years back, but at that point, I wasn't ready to contemplate it on any serious level. I figured I'd just take extra precautions by watching myself more carefully, and assume that my chances of cancer were very high. Anyways, I think that now that I am done having babies, and the rest of my life is ahead of me, the future and it's risks seem so much more real to me.
I didn't think making this decision would feel like anything, but man, it does. It feels scary! All of a sudden my future won't be nearly as hypothetical. I'll either be able to able to breathe a sigh of relief that me and my children are safe (obviously, I'll still have all the "normal" risks a person faces), or I'll have to make some life changing choices.Basically, the reason for this is that if I have the gene, I have a lifetime chance of 85% of getting breast cancer, and 20% for ovarian. Not great numbers. My only "real" choice will be preventative double mastectomy and oophorectomy (removal of ovaries). At this point (ask me again if I get bad news, haha) I've decided that worse case scenario, that is exactly what I will have done. I would rather not have to live (or quite frankly, die) with "what if..." later on. Also, we have military insurance, and as much as people like to complain about it, if I'm deemed a high enough risk, they'll pay for everything. Surgery, reconstruction, and medical leave for Joel. I guess I don't really have to explain why that's so big, but to just have that opportunity is far, far more than most people have. It's an incredible blessing, and one that we might not always have. Finally, I have the support of my husband. I know he doesn't really know what the full scope of surgery/recovery will be like (I know I don't know either), but I know not every man would support something that drastic. That will put my chances down to something very low (like 1-2%). The only other option is taking Tamoxifen for five years, and that still leaves me at 65%.
Clearly I'm getting ahead of myself, I haven't had the test done and it will probably be several months until I get them. I have a 50/50 chance of good or bad news, but I think planning & researching has helped calm me, even if it makes it slightly more frightening since it makes the whole situation more "real." Since making the choice, I've spoken with a geneticist, and I'm supposed to have twice yearly clinical breast exams, and an MRI and mammogram done once a year. So far, I've had the mammogram, which wasn't bad. Maybe a little awkward, but if you've gone through childbirth, you've been in much more "awkward" situations, haha! The worst part for me was that I forgot to shave and your not supposed to wear deodorant, so I felt kinda icky.
This past week has really reminded me that I am making the right choice. Two days ago was the second anniversary of the passing of my aunt from breast cancer. Three days ago, my cousin (this aunts daughter) found out she has the mutation. Please keep my family in your prayers. There has been a lot of suffering the last few years. I was so hoping that the cancer would stop in my generation, but so far three of my four cousins who have been tested have the gene, so the cycle continues.
I'm going to leave you all with a link. Never before have I ever seen something that describes cancer so clearly through photographs...one in particular reminds me so much of my aunt. It is extremely moving, so if your sensitive just be aware, because it definitely made me cry...