On Being BRCA2-Positive

On Being BRCA2-Positive

Rob came home for lunch and a run last Tuesday, so I drove him back to the office and had just pulled into the garage to get the mail when my phone rang.

"Is this a good time?" my genetic counselor asked while I balanced the phone on my shoulder and looked into our mailbox. Just junk as usual. 

"Sure," I said, because I always knew in my gut that the test was going to come back positive for a BRCA gene mutation, and I wasn't surprised when she told me that I was right. I didn't think I needed someone there when I got the news, but suddenly I couldn't believe she didn't call just an hour sooner, while Rob was home with me.

I made it back upstairs before breaking into tears. I thought about my mom, home from surgery, wincing through the pain of recovery; and how as I washed her hair for her a few days later I selfishly prayed that I would never be on the other side of a double mastectomy.

But I will be.

Being BRCA2-positive means that I have a lifetime risk of 41%-84% for breast cancer, and up to a 27% risk of ovarian cancer. The hardest thing to remember these past few days is that my test results are not a cancer diagnosis, and that without surgery, there's still a chance I could live my whole life without ever having cancer. 

There are some days where knowing that I have a gene mutation feels so incredibly unfair, but there are more days where I feel blessed in the strangest way. We all have a certain risk of all kinds of illnesses, because we're alive and we're human and things go wrong. This is one that I get to face head on and avoid. It's a gift. 

We haven't made any decisions yet and we don't have to--my genetic counselor was very adamant about making sure we knew that there's no rush. For a couple of days Rob and I stressed ourselves out trying to decide if we should have kids soon or if we should move to a bigger place and when would our loans be paid off and will we need two cars? It was too much. For now I'll start getting an annual MRI to make sure things are fine; and once we've had a few kids, I'll most likely choose to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction.

While I've managed to be pretty matter-of-fact and somewhat logical about this whole thing, the overwhelming truth is that I'm really scared. But I'm also hopeful. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and even with the overwhelm that has been my life lately, I don't think I've ever been more grateful--for my life, my health, my husband. That my mom is doing well. I'm thankful for God, for science and medicine, for options. For the future.

Wishing each of you a happy and healthy beginning to this holiday season.

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