Tomorrow marks the one month'aversary of my bilateral mastectomy. One month, I hardly know where the time has gone. One month ago I was determined to get through this new and hopefully temporary phase of my life to insure that I never get cancer again, but I was scared to willfully sign up for such big surgery. Waiting for the surgery was the hardest part. Dealing with the known is so much easier than where your mind can go with the unknown. Especially for those of us with creative imaginations and a flair for the dramatic.
Over the past month I've had a little time to reflect on this BRCA1 gene mutation, the sole reason for my choice of prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. My body's genetic marker mutation was the reason I had a triple negative breast cancer at the age of 31. This genetic code typographical error that I carry is the reason I chose to have my ovaries removed in August 2011, as BRCA1 is also directly related to a significantly higher risk of a deadly and not easily detected ovarian cancer.
Here is what I didn't know. Some BRCA1 gene mutation carriers experience premature ovarian failure with infertility as the only symptom. Despite our enthusiastic and at times unrelenting attempts at getting pregnant, the Muffin Man and I were never successful. We unhappily settled into that lack luster category of unexplained infertility for many years. But now, I wonder did my BRCA1 status rob us of our chances of biological children? Even though we may never know for sure, I have this queasy feeling that it is probably so.
I love my two girls more than anything, and I honestly wouldn't change the way they became part of our family through adoption. But it does in some small way feel like yet a new and stinging loss brought to us via this BRCA1 status.
There have also been some happier revelations this month I've spent moving at a snail's pace recovering from the surgery. When I was diagnosed with cancer 11 year's ago, I questioned if I had brought this to myself. Certainly not in a conscious way, but I wondered if the cancer was a result of my not handling stress well and this was my body's way of revolting. I wondered if my cancer was a direct result of some infertility treatments we chose and my fragile emotional state while pursuing these treatments. (I was diagnosed with cancer only weeks after losing an early pregnancy following IVF.) I wondered if my body crashed in the form of cancer because I was mentally or spiritually weak.
Here is the happy part. I now know all that was crap. I got cancer because I am BRCA1 positive. People with this genetic mis-code do not always have the ability to fight tumor growth. A malignant cell appears in a BRCA1 body and the body does not know how to fight it off, it ignores it and that little malignant cell multiplies furiously until cancer is detected and cut out, or chemically treated with chemotherapy. It has been tremendously empowering to now know that my cancer was indeed genetic, it was not becasue I lived near a power plant in upstate NY while in 1st grade. Nor did I cause my cancer with any wavering emotional state or high stress job.
As I look back over the last decade, I now see what an impact this little defective gene has had. It has taken body parts and it has made me driven to find my children born on the other side of the planet.
Good, bad and indifferent I look forward to the closure and finality of the impact this little gene mutation has had on my life. Perhaps now is not the time to hog the story and hope it can have positive impact on someone else's life.
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