“She’s Positive. She’s Positive Not”
Waiting for the Answer by Rachel Pappas
A few weeks later came her call. My mother had breast cancer too. Her bad news had me petrified that I was positive for the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation that almost guarantees you will get breast or ovarian cancer. What if I passed this gene to my daughter and she ended up with the same fate as my mother and myself?Scarier yet, I had other risk factors, namely that I am Jewish and have a type of breast cancer where the gene is prevalent. Stay cool, I told myself, as I got on the phone to schedule the DNA test that would tell if the culprit mutation had invaded my body.
I would soon learn that there was a lot of guess work involved in assessing for the likelihood that a person is a carrier. But I could live with that, because I also learned that the odds were much more in my favor than I had feared.
I listened intently during the genetic consult as the nurse explained two assessment models. The probability that I was a “marked woman” varied hugely between the two models. By four hundred percent to be exact.
To throw a little more speculation out there, a week later came the letter from my oncologist. It forewarned that the chance I was positive was higher than either model predicted. I had multiple risk factors that had not been considered, like family history on my father’s side. Huh, a genetic test that doesn’t take into account history on both sides of the family?
I put the letter on the kitchen counter, blew an exasperated sigh, and said, the blood will tell soon enough.
It was only a few more days before I, with my husband at my side, was once again face to face with the nurse. I watched as she slid the results from the manila folder, turned her eyes to me, and spilled the news with a wide smile. No mutations!
I couldn’t wait to get on the phone with my 20-year-old daughter, counting the rings until she answered.
I bounced back in response to her sleepy hello with, “Eleni. Good news. We don’t have the gene. You get to keep your boobies!” She laughed.
The short period of angst was worth it. We now know what to do moving forward, which fortunately, in our case, will be nothing. No radical surgeries or other prophylactic measures needed to try and prevent cancer.
And we got a bonus: because the news was good, we had a reason to feel like this time we were among the lucky ones. Having something huge to be grateful for is something I needed badly about then. _________________________________________________________________________________
Arlene Pappas has written extensively on health care for life style magazines, newspapers, and the health care industry. She brings you news of recent medical breakthroughs; heart-clenching survivors’ stories; women’s, children’s, and seniors’ health issues. And she offers tips and resources for accessing information and supportive services.
To contact Arlene with questions about her write-ups to inquire about her written services: [email protected]