Two days ago I read Angelina Jolie’s story about having a preventative double mastectomy, because she is BRCA+. This topic has been on my mind, literally, for years. The screenshot below shows that I wrote this post on April 24th. I had BRCA gene testing done in March. This post has been in draft for almost a month.
Coincidence? I think not.
It is time for women to begin taking charge of our health and speaking up on important issues.
Ms. Jolie’s choice for a mastectomy was not an easy one, and unless you have ever faced the surety of a cancer diagnosis, please don’t judge her for “jumping too fast” (as a commenter said on her posted article). She made the choice she felt was right for herself and her family.
That’s how long I have been scrutinized by a radiologist using a large medieval torture devise, or vise, otherwise known as the mammogram machine. That dreaded cancer diagnosis has always loomed in the back of my mind. My Mom had breast cancer at the age of 34. I’m told her biological mother died of it in her 60’s. This puts me in a very high risk category.
I’ve been pretty good about going every year. Granted, the date has been moved several times because, well, I forgot to make the appointment, but I HAVE had my mammogram each year! There are concerns about the calcifications that evenly dot my mammogram films, but they are watching them closely. After the first year of mammograms every other month, they relaxed and are confident that nothing’s “happening” there. Thank God.
I had an incident at work where a resident kicked me in the breast and I ended up with a large hematoma. I went to the doctor, who referred me to a breast specialist. She did an ultrasound which confirmed the hematoma, but said, “This will go away eventually, I don’t see any damage there. I will close out the L&I paperwork but then I want you as a new patient because of your significant family history.”
So the breast specialist and I, we’re getting pretty tight. She has me coming in twice a year for manual exams, yearly for mammograms, and she recommended having the BRCA test, for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
I have never been worried about a blood test before.
Ever. Suddenly though, I have this THING looming over me. I was so sure it would be positive. My Mom had breast cancer at 35. Her biological mother died from it (in her 60’s). I have been dealing with boob-related stuff for almost 10 years. It was up to me whether or not to have it done. I stressed over it but finally decided that the only way to know if there is even anything to be concerned about is to have the test. And it’s not cheap. Our insurance, they told me, is known for either fully covering or fully denying it. I waited until I had the approval in hand before proceeding.
Blood test. Wait. Try not to think about it. Wait. Stress. Pray. And when I’d finally forgotten about it, they called and told me my results. It took 3 1/2 weeks.
Three reasons I opted to have BRCA testing:
So that I would know. For me it means the difference between an 85% chance of breast cancer, and an 8% chance.
I have two daughters. If I was found positive, they would need to be tested eventually too.
To give my family peace of mind. All of us thought that my getting breast cancer was inevitable. It’s a heavy weight to have lingering in the background. That weight has been lifted.
Does this mean I won’t get cancer? No. But it means that I am much less likely to develop it and for me, knowing that made it worth the stick in the arm. I had to consider the same choice Ms. Jolie did and honestly, I may have gone for the mastectomy too. Praise God I tested negative!