Comfort in genetic testing – my children should have the choice

This entry was written by Tyesha Love, author of I Am Not My Hair, A Young Woman’s Journey and Triumph over Breast Cancer:

My daughter Taylor was 12 years old when she began asking me questions concerning her and her brother’s health. “Mom, can we get cancer, since you had cancer? Can Joey (my son, her brother) get breast cancer too? Will I have to think about removing my breasts? Will we need the genetic test since you have the mutation?”

It was then that I knew I made the right choice in my decision for genetic testing. After receiving my positive test result, I remained optimistic about life and a good quality of health. It was not until nine months later, when I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer, I became distressed by the positive test result. I lamented the day I got the genetic test. I irrationally and angrily asserted that it was because I had the test, cancer now invaded my body. I thought, had I avoided the test, I could have prevented cancer.

Not all of my family members were as determined to get the genetic testing. Many of my family members have a philosophy about genetic testing: don’t worry about anything, until there is something to worry about.

When my mother tested positive for the BRCA 1 mutation, it was highly recommended my sister and I get tested, as there was a 50/50 chance she passed the gene to her offspring. With a strong history of cancer on my mother’s side of the family – I wanted to know my risk for developing a cancer. Some blood work and several days later after the consultation session where I thought I’m fine! I am ready to get this done. Let’s do this and get it over with!, I was called in for the results.

I understood why the gene specialist who spoke at the consultation prior to testing discussed dealing with the emotions of learning of other family members’ test results. The grieving worsened when I learned of my sister’s negative result. In my heart there was joy that my sister did not have to worry about being high risk; there was joy that she did not have to take precautionary steps to limit her risks for developing a cancer. But there was another side of me that wanted to scream out, Why me!? Why do I have to be the one with the high risk?! What did I do to deserve this?!

I no longer have those doubts and questions and that anger. I am comforted knowing that my son and my daughter’s future decision to get tested for the BRCA 1 mutation is a step in understanding their options. They have the choice to take precautionary measures against hereditary cancers and significantly reduce their risks by way of prophylactic surgery and surveillance. I am reassured knowing my children will one day be empowered with the knowledge of their family’s medical history.


Tyesha, center, with daughter Taylor and son Joey

Have you thought about genetic testing? Do you have a family history of breast cancer? Want to learn more? Join Living Beyond Breast Cancer for our next FREE teleconference, Breast Cancer Genetics: Understanding Risk Assessment and Testing, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on Thursday, September 16. Click here for more information.

3 thoughts on “Comfort in genetic testing – my children should have the choice

  1. I found out that I had a BRCA2 mutation and had the same feelings as Tyesha, but was able to make decisions based on my genetic testing. I do have concerns about my 15 year old and will be talking to her about her health as she gets just a little older. For now, emotionally, I think she has been pretty beat up by this breast cancer diagnosis, the surgeries, the whole nine yards. I would like her to live a normal teenage life and start talking to her about this when she is around 20 years old. My daughter will not be able to walk around with her head in the sand over this issue because both me and her grandmother suffered breast cancer. Additionally, my mother suffered Ovarian Cancer.

  2. Kathleen,

    I hope this finds you doing well.
    When you decide to talk to your daughter, and I believe now is not too soon to start touching on the topic, consider directing her to Bright Pink. They aim to help young women better understand what it means to be high risk and how to be proactive with their health.
    Be well.

  3. Pingback: Cancer, one of the reasons for going after my degree « LBBC's Blog

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