Getting diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30 made me think I definitely had a genetic predisposition to this happening. Why else would this be happening? Every time I tell someone they ask me if I am BRCA positive. I had no idea the amount of genes that could contribute to making you sick, and I also had no idea that 90-95% of breast cancer was not in fact from any genetic mutation. It was a long day of appointments and I was ending my day with the genetic counselor. I had no idea what to expect but was told it would take quite a few hours. My Father, Mother, and BF came with me and we were put in a very small room with no windows. Hmm, claustrophobia sets in. I get handed a PACKET full of papers and a very nice women comes in and starts to explain the process. She pulls out a piece of paper and a pen and starts to draw out a family tree. After hours of firing questions about every family member I could possibly be related to the tree finished and looked more like a forrest. She then started to discuss all the possible genetic mutations that could be running in my family. Exciting. She handed me over a paper with four that seemed to make the most sense, BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, TP53. To be honest, I had only ever been familiar with the BRCA gene and since being diagnosed its all I have heard from people. “Are you BRCA positive, are you BRCA positive?” I don’t fucking know! She is explaining the BRCA gene and I start to panic, this would significantly effect my nieces, my cousins, and then I see that it not only causes breast and ovarian cancer, it causes prostate and skin cancer so would also effect my brother and nephews. My head is spinning and for some reason I feel responsible. What if I have it, I have to explain to my entire family that they are at risk. I have to install that fear into their lives, their parents lives, and create a sense of terror in my entire family. I sit there and think, why, why can’t we just go back to how things were a month ago, before any of this was happening, when my biggest problem seems so minuscule now. Perspective. I feel frustrated.
The lady then starts to explain the next gene, PALB2, and associated cancers with that one and another panic attack sets in. These percentages seem high and once again I have never felt less invincible. Lastly, she brings up TP53. She explains the severity of this one. All I hear is 90% chance of developing an aggressive cancer and multiple thereafter in your lifetime. My mind goes white. I think back to my friend Erica that I had just met. I remember her saying that is what she has. I hear my dad chime in and say NO, we won’t be doing that, that is like saying there is a 90% chance you are going to get hit by a bus, we aren’t sure when but its most likely going to happen. He said that he didn’t want me to have that extreme worry stay with me for the rest of my life. My mind stays on Erica and my legs go numb. I want to cry but I am frozen. I want to scream at the top of my lungs. The small room that we are all in seems to be getting smaller and I need to get the fuck out. I sign off on the 3 genetic tests and get escorted into a room for bloodwork. More bloodwork. I am sick of getting poked multiple times a day for blood and other things. They said they could collect a saliva sample but my parents urge me to get the bloodwork, that seems more efficient. They explain that these results will be expedited since they will help me with my treatment plan. I go into the bathroom and for a second my eyes well up with tears. My frustration turns into physical pain. For the first time in my life, I feel completely vulnerable. Stripped of all my armor and left here completely helpless with now way out. A shot of adrenaline pumps through me and I snap out of it. I have more surgeons to see and I have to still meet with my medical oncologist, more tests to lead me to a treatment plan that I will have to decide on and then endure and I absolutely can not crumble. What good am I if I fall apart?