- Posted October 10, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Tested for the breast cancer gene?
Somewhere over the Rainbow
Of course I had this superior attitude that my sister and I were so different. We were built different-she all curvy and cute, I tall and not so curvy. I ate very healthy, did not smoke, did not drink as she had, and exercised. In my mind I was not concerned that I would get cancer. No one before my sister had ever had it, and my mother had 10 brothers and sisters and my father had 2 brothers and everyone lived cancer free to a ripe old age. Never the less I did begin getting yearly mammograms at age 34.
Year after year they came back fine-every once and awhile I would have to go back but it always turned out to be nothing until July of 2010. They called me back in because the radiologist saw just the faintest shadow...so faint that she did not think it was anything, but just in case, come in. I happily came back in just knowing like all the other times I would be fine. The ultrasound showed more than a shadow and my breast doctor did a biopsy and as I have always requested honesty, told me that it did not look good. She was right and she called and told me to come in that day because I had cancer. She said that with my sister’s death and because I was also young (51) that she would like me to be tested for the BRCA gene. I had three daughters and I wanted to know so we sent the blood work in that day. It too came back positive for the BRCA1 gene.
I met with oncologists and got second opinions about chemotherapy and was put on Cisplatin. My daughter Rachel took me to my first round on August 9 2010.It was such a comfort to have her there. I know that the first round is usually the easiest, but I was so sick. My phone rang late the evening of the second day after and I saw that it was my daughter Kate calling. I just did not have the energy to even pick up the phone and figured I would call her back in the morning when I hopefully felt better. I wish I had picked up the phone. On August 11 2010 my daughter, my baby Kate, after years of battling mental illness, took her life. There is a whole other story about life without Kate but I'll not write it here. What I will say , is that the two most generally dreaded things in life-cancer and losing a child had suddenly all happened to me, and my mantra of "someone is always worse off than me, and have joy no matter what" was being severely tested.
Having to focus on chemo, staying healthy enough for treatments, plus continuing to work throughout my treatment took its toll. By the time my fourth treatment was nearing, I was having severe headaches so bad that I would bang my head against the wall...really. When I went to have my blood work down my creatine levels were so high that my Kidneys were in grave danger and I was immediately hospitalized. It was a horrible and very lonely ten days. I was so so sick, but in the midst, when I thought I was going to lose it, a nurse came in and asked if she could pray with me. It was such a blessing and I knew I was going to survive however long I had to stay there. That was just one example of all the people whose paths crossed mine and made those 5 months bearable.
A few days before Thanksgiving I had my double mastectomy and came home and was cared for by my two daughters. They took such good care of me, and both learned to strip my drain tubes-now that is certainly an act of love!!! It felt good to let go and let them take care of me....the worse was past, chemo was over, and my breasts were gone. I survived .Because this gene mutation also lends itself to a high rate of ovarian cancer I also had my ovaries out. My scars are now a part of me, my body changed, but I am ok. Things used to matter (that should not have) just did not have any power over me. I had grown and it felt good.
My mother got tested for the gene, and was negative. My father had already passed (suicide as well) but obviously it was he who had the gene, but strangely enough, no one in his family had had any cancer. My oldest brother tested positive and my other brother does not want to test. We assume my sister also had the gene. My 32 year old daughter has tested positive for the BRCA1 gene and is going to be a previvor-next spring she will have a double mastectomy and her tubes taken out. She is such a strong woman who has courageously taken the bull by the horns and is getting the word out to others. My other daughter has not been tested but I hope she will soon.
Me, I am living life, two years a survivor, back to all the things I used to do, but with a more peaceful and settled attitude. It takes a lot to make me stress now :-) Like all the other women who have shared this gene I am changed forever, and grateful for the sisters I have out there who understand.