A fellow cancer fighter, the badass Kaylin Andres, wrote recently in the Huffington Post about her ongoing battle with cancer. Her perspective really resonated with me, now more than ever. She said,
“… you start to let go of the prevailing popular opinion that cancer is a battle with only two outcomes — cure or death. There is a third, secret option, relatively unknown to the general healthy public: you learn to live with it.”
Now, if someone had told me when I was first diagnosed with cancer that I’d just “have to learn to live with it”, I would have said fuck that. No way. I want it out and gone. I would have said that anything else is simply unacceptable.
However, the truth is that sometimes we have no choice but to accept the unacceptable. Because sometimes what we once thought of as unacceptable is simply reality.
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I recently found out that I have the BRCA1 genetic mutation. And even though I’ve recently gone through a hell of a year of intense treatment for widespread gynecologic cancer, I am now facing the fact that I am at very high risk for breast cancer. Like really high risk. I’m told that there is an 87 percent chance that I’ll contract breast cancer in my lifetime. And although at age 45, I’ve already lived through part of my lifetime risk, those odds are still uncomfortably high.
According to the National Cancer Institute, prophylactic mastectomy in high-risk women may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 90 percent. As I see it, I didn’t go through 3 surgeries, 24 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, and a year of fighting my way back to health just to have another form of cancer come in the back door and take me out. Fuck that. This is why, when told that I could voluntarily remove my healthy breasts in order to save my life, I didn’t hesitate to say “I will.”
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I recently made the decision to seek genetic counseling and testing to determine if, given my history of cancer, my daughter was also at risk for contracting the disease. Turns out, she very well may be. My first step in the genetic testing process was to see if I carried either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. If I tested negative, I would then have the option to go deeper and do further testing. Given my known family history and all of the relevant factors, I knew I had a relatively low 7.5% chance of testing positive for one of the mutuations. So I was surprised this week to learn that I had indeed tested positive for a BRCA1 deleterious mutation. In other words, I have the cancer gene. Read More →