I Got Screened.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post on whether or not as someone with a very long family history of cancer I was going to get screened for a gene called BRCA1 and BRCA2. I posted the article in December (here’s a link if you are curious), then further debated the topic until June and then decided to get screened.  Finding out if you are a cancer gene carrier and thereby changing your life is pretty simple it turns out.  Spit into a test tube for under a minute and you’re done. Gross yes, not really a first date kind of outing, but apparently effective. Six to 8 months later you get results.  Since the test, I have debated whether I made a mistake and perhaps would call and ask them not to share the results.  You see, if I am a carrier of the BRCA gene, the decision was that I would immediately opt for a double mastectomy and then book an ooferectomy (thats when they remove your uterus and it puts you into early menopause) because who the hell wants to know that they carry a breast/ovarian cancer gene and not do anything about it.  It’s like walking around being a ticking time bomb. 6 months of stressing as to whether I wanted the results or not.  In that time, I watched two girlfriends go through double mastectomies.  I watched one of them lay in bed with tubes and bandages and dried blood and pain and I started to consider whether I was brave enough to endure what my brave friends had done for the sake of staying alive to watch their beautiful children grow up.  It’s funny how once you become a parent, you no longer make decisions for yourself.  You make EVERY decision for your children.  Just the thought of not watching them grow up brings me to tears. I spent 6 months endlessly debating whether I was going to accept the results. I even imagined how the nurse would leave me a message telling me to call her for results and I would call back and before she had a chance to say anything, I was going to tell her I didn’t want to know. Then yesterday an “unknown number” appeared on my call display.  I ignored because no, contrary to popular belief I do not need my gutters cleaned by whatever telemarketer was calling me.  Within one minute the phone rang again and I decided that no telemarketer is getting paid to call me twice so better pick up. I picked up the phone and said hello, and before I even had a chance to think about who was calling, the person on the other end of the line said “Hi Sharon, this is the nurse from the Narod study that you participated in to determine if you are a BRCA gene carrier and I have fabulous news for you!”.  It took her about 4 seconds to blurt that out and it took one further second for my shoulders to relax, my mind to finally get some rest from this internal debate I had been having and for me yelp a Whoohoo! in the middle of the nail salon I was in at the time. A girlfriend was with me and asked what the call was about and when I told her the whole story about my debating the test and then the results and my girlfriends with breast cancer, she looked at me and said “Holy crap, how have you been living with this stress for the last 6 months and not even talked to anyone about it?  Had I known I would have been there for you!”  The truth is, this is one of those things that friends can’t advise you on, it’s one of those decisions that you make for the sake of your children and doesn’t require any other input except from maybe your spouse or parents as they happen to be my sounding boards for everything. It’s been a roller coaster that I am happy to be off, and this morning I  woke up truly relaxed, more grateful, and free from the chatter in my head.  I am now ready to celebrate a happy and healthy New Year! http://www.ptpamedia.com/blog/index.php/2009/12/16/to-screen-or-n…s-the-question/

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