2014 has been a whirlwind for me. It started off pretty great. I was newly engaged, I qualified for Boston 2x within 4 weeks, and Jason (my now husband) and I took 2 roadtrips to races across the US. Life seemed pretty normal & the good times were rolling. Until my mom was diagnosed with Overian Caner- stage2.
My mom was 51 and completely healthy. Cancer (to my knowledge) did NOT run in the family. Every time a doctor asked that question growing up, I robotically said “Nope. No one has had cancer”. It was almost as if I grew up believing I was “safe” from cancer. You hear all these stories, but cancer was never something I worried or thought about. If I heard a cancer story, I would comfort myself by thinking “no one in your family has cancer- it won’t happen to you!”. It was quiet a shock to my system to hear my mom has cancer. It was the sort of news where your heart breaks and the rest of your life will never be the same again.
And our lived aren’t the same. I don’t think they ever will be. I watched my mom in the hospital after surgery unable to walk. I watched her hair fall out and helped her cut it short. I watched as my dad shaved her head. I watched as her body withered away from chemo. However, I also watched when she ran a 5k during chemo. I watched as she went back to work a few weeks after surgery saying “I’m fine- I want to go back”. I watched life continue to go by. When she wore her wig, there were so many times that I forgot that she had cancer. My perspective on life started changing. Why did this happen to my mom? Why is this happening to our family? It was an unbelievable feeling that broke your heart into a million pieces every time you thought about it. So I stopped thinking about it.
Fast forward to June 2014, 3 weeks before my wedding, Jason and I were at my mom’s house.. I really can’t remember the details of the conversation, but this was the bottom line:
My mom was BRCA1 positive. BRCA1 is a genetic mutation that suppresses a tumor fighting gene. BRCA1 caused my mothers cancer. There was a 50% possibility that she passed this gene on to me. If she did, my lifetime risk for breast/overian cancer would be close to 90%.
My reaction was not so great to this news. I broke into tears & practically RAN out of the house. I was flooded with emotions. I KNEW that day in my heart that I had inherited the gene. I could just feel it. I just KNEW.
Time doesn’t stop for anymore. I continued on with my life. I ran another marathon (3:26 PR) WHOOHOO! And I got married on July 26. Jason and I bought a house in early September. We also bought our first doggy (Abby). She is the best dog and greatest running companion.
As life slowed down after the wedding, I made my appointment with the genetic counselor to get tested for BRCA1. My appointment was scheduled for the middle of October. Going into this appointment, my knowledge of BRCA1 was little to none.
The genetic counselor educated me on BRCA1 and the preventive measures that would need to be taken if I was positive:
By 35-40 it was required to get an oophertomy (Overian and Fallopian tubes removed). I would need to started getting mammograms at age 25 but that a lot of women chose to get a masterecomy.
I actually had to ask her what a mastectomy was. Boobs removed. great. My translation of this news was:
You will need to get your boobs removed by 25 and get your reductive system removed at 35 AT THE LATEST.
The only thing I thought about for the next week was:
I HAVE TO GET MY BOOBS AND MY REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM REMOVED BY THE TIME IM 35.
I started panic mode before I even heard the news. I was prepared when a few days later I received this voicemail
“Victoria…. unfortuneatly, you share the…” my heart broke. I was BRCA1 positive.
Then the thoughts started flooding in:
What if I get cancer before I have kids/have surgery?
Well better rush having kids so I can get these surgeries done so I won’t get cancer!
Wait- is it even moral to have children knowing that they would have a 50% chance of inheriting this?
Should I have my breast removed before I have children?
What if I couldn’t breast feed? wouldn’t that make me a bad mom?
Whirlwinds of thoughts. Sometimes at work, the thoughts would creep up, and I would fight to have to hold back the tears. I still don’t have it all figured out. I don’t know when I will.
2014 has been a year where I really “grew up”. I learned a lot about myself. I’m not a victim. No one should feel sorry for me. My life is not “ruined”. There is no reason I can’t continue to do the things I wanted to do.
My thoughts right now are leaning towards getting a PBM (boobs removed with reconstruction) sometime when I’m 25. I don’t think I will want to have kids before that time. I want to travel some more… Maybe Greece & New Zealand 🙂 I’m still really young, and as hard as it is not to view my boobs and Ovaries as ticking time bombs, I know I need to take a chill pill and enjoy my life. I will go through with all preventative actions as recommended by my doctor. That is all that I can do. No one gets out of this world alive.