The Scary Side of Heritage
We as a family had just lost my aunt to cancer. She realistically was my cousin, but if you grew up in an Italian family with a bunch of cousins that are old enough to be your parents – congratulations, they are now your aunt or uncle. It’s a sign of respect.
I stood there watching my two cousins, not much older than me, as they had to bury their mom. Just as their mom and her sisters had done when they were young. I had watched this before with my Grandma and my Great Grandma. I selfishly wondered who was next, fingers crossed it wouldn’t hit my mom anytime soon. Aunt Ronni was different because she opened the door to a breakthrough that was just coming available that could possibly save our lives.
Genetic Testing, the ability to see if you are at a higher risk than the average person because of a mutation in your genes. BRCA testing tells you if you’re more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer, and judging by our history, I already knew the answer to that question. I eventually was tested. The chances are 50/50 and I was positive.
Shocker. Just my luck, I thought.
I was 19 at the time and the doctor gave me his email address and told me to write to him if I had any questions or concerns. I thought that was odd. I later decided that I didn’t like that doctor very well at all. I started to feel like he looked at my family as a “cash cow” more than anything.
I was upset, but not that upset. I was still young and the weight of the ticking time bomb I’d been carrying around my whole life, hadn’t quite hit yet. It didn’t really hit until about four years ago when I birthed my daughter. I knew she would be my last. I was caught up in the prime of raising my babies and I started my semi-annual checkups.
I would check in at my gynecologist and ask what I was there for today because I honestly can’t remember what test is at which time of the year. MRI of the breast once a year. Mammogram once a year. Ultrasounds, blood work, and PAP smears. Oh, and don’t forget to check at home too.
I’ll go ahead and give my boobies a couple extra squeezes in between every. other. thing. mothers. do.
I kept at it. I’m not exaggerating when I say, there has been ONE time I’ve gone to an appointment and not had some weird abnormality on my tests, which then extends the process of waiting.
The first time they called I paced my living room and my heart was beating rapidly, my cheeks started burning, and my temperature increased by about 1000%. “
Please don’t say cancer, please don’t say cancer, please don’t say cancer” I was repeating in my head.
They didn’t. It has always been, “We need you to come back up and run some more tests.”
A gigantic sigh of “half” relief.
I am so incredibly thankful to have found my doctor. He isn’t who delivered my children. I found his office after I got more serious about keeping on top of my health and finding someone who will help provide the care to do so. He does his very best to keep me informed but is reassuring all at the same time.
The all too real fact is, there is that women my age now being diagnosed, it’s starting to get quite terrifying.
The decisions I have to make are starting to get more intense.
My latest appointment they took me back to a room, I had never been in before. I immediately started panicking. There were three chairs, some vagina posters on the wall, along with a 3D replica, (you know in case the posters weren’t informative enough), and a lone box of tissues. I was sitting there with my leg bouncing like I was riding one of my kids on the imaginary horsey, trying to talk myself down from an anxiety attack while I waited. I kept looking around thinking this is a “bad news” room. This is the room that you cry in. I wanted to chuck that tissue box against the door. I may have talked myself down while I was by myself, but I didn’t do so hot when he walked in.
“Hey, how you doing today.” He says.
I give him the circular motion with my hand like let’s get on with it while saying, “Well, hopefully, good after this.”
Sitting here writing this now, I wonder how dumb I looked and if I came off as rude which is totally not my demeanor.
He said, “Well, they look better, and continued to tell me the specifics.”
I lost it! Years of worrying, all spewed out of me, sitting in that 6×6 room, and through my tears, I asked him how long I had to keep doing this. I’m pretty sure I told him I have three kids, that I am a mom first, and I can’t keep worrying myself sick. I opened my eyes and that box of tissues was outstretched in his hand. I’m still sitting here completely embarrassed that I was so emotional.
I’ve lived my life with the mindset that you never know when it’s your time to go, so make it the best you can while you’re here. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m about to undergo some major surgeries to decrease my risks of cancer, but I’m not oblivious to the fact that there are risks in the surgeries itself. What I haven’t yet come to terms with, is the fear of leaving my kids without their mother. I’ve watched most of the members of my family live without their mom because of this disease and I am going to do everything in my power to avoid that. The women we’ve lost may never know the power they have enriched me with, by increasing my chances of fulfilling that dream with this one simple test. So here is to my 30th year, may it be filled with hope, happiness, and most of all peace.