The Will to Live

This entry was written by one of our volunteers:

Back in 2003, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was 31 years old and 34 weeks pregnant.  It was an absolute shock because I wasn’t aware of any history in my family.  I would come to learn that my great-grandmother on my father’s side was diagnosed but she was treated and went on to live a nice, long life. 

For three years after my successful treatment, I was a happy mother of a healthy little girl and looking to put cancer behind me.  That all changed in the fall of 2006 when my mother and sister were diagnosed with breast cancer within three months of each other.  Whereas in the past I had blown off genetic testing, I now recognized my family’s need to get genetic testing.   

Why get tested? 

The stakes were high. I have a little girl and my sister has two little girls. Carriers of the BRCA1 gene not only have high incidents of breast cancer, but ovarian cancer as well.  When my results came back positive part, of me was relieved. Now I knew why I got cancer in the first place.  But mostly, I was sad.  I met with a genetic counselor and we went through the testing process and possible repercussions with a fine-toothed comb.  My choice was to either carry on with my life while getting tested every six months or get a double mastectomy.  And because of the ovarian cancer risk, an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) was also on the table. 

I was so frustrated. I had completed my “cancer time” and I was trying so hard to move forward with my life.  I couldn’t get tested every six months.  It was hard enough thinking every ache and pain was a recurrence. Getting tested every six months would make me go insane with worry.  The removal of body parts seemed barbaric and incredibly invasive.  No more breasts?  No more ovaries?  It would be difficult to go ahead and relinquish the parts of my body I felt were essential to my womanhood. 

But in the end, what matters most is life.  I want to grow old with my husband and watch our children grow to be happy, healthy adults.  So in 2007, I had an oophorectomy and a double mastectomy with reconstruction.  In the end I am grateful that we have tests available to find out if one is a gene carrier.  Despite the fact I was given “choices,” when the test came back positive for the BRCA1 gene, I felt there was really no other choice than to have the surgeries. 

I want to live.  What good are your boobs and eggs if you aren’t living? 

Because of the testing I not only saved my own life, but also the lives of daughters, cousins, and nieces in the next generation.  I may not have all my physical parts anymore, but my heart is still there…beating loud and clear.

Did you decide to get genetic testing? Why/why not? Leave us a comment below or on Facebook letting us know what influenced your decision.

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One Response to “The Will to Live”

  1. Liliana Says:

    I completely understand your dilemma. I didn’t have the BRCA1 gene but my cancer was fast growing and 10 lymph nodes were involved. I decided to do everything I could to fight it and heal myself. This meant bilateral mastectomy, hysterectomy and reconstructive surgery after chemo and radiation.
    I am not for a second sorry that I did it. Like you said, life matters most, and I want to live.

    http://graciouslivingdaybyday.com/

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