What If This Kills Me?

It’s the question everyone with our mutation thinks to themselves, but rarely says out loud.  It could be because no one likes facing their own mortality or maybe you always want to put on a brave face for the sake of your family and friends… but it’s there, creeping and whispering in the back of our mind, standing right behind the cheerleader in us that’s screaming, “Don’t worry! These surgeries will fix everything!”

The answer is yes, I have asked myself this very question.  As it stands right now, before surgery, I have an 87% lifetime chance of contracting breast cancer and a risk of somewhere around 60% for ovarian cancer.  After I have both the prophylactic mastectomy and total hysterectomy, my risk will be somewhere around 1-2%.  I will have odds, with those particular cancers, better than the average person.  But the body has MANY different systems and who knows which one will eventually fail.  Not many people know it, but my risk is considered elevated for pancreatic cancer because of the BRCA1 mutation.  It is very hard to screen for and by the time a diagnosis is given, it is usually too late.  Not great news.

Now that I have thoroughly scared you, let me give you some good news.  We are still here and we are not gone yet.  Life is beautiful and should not be lived in percentages.  It is true that cancer could kill us in the future.  But you could die in a car accident today on the way to the grocery store too.  We just don’t know.  Why live in fear of something that is so completely unpredictable?  This knowledge you have been given shouldn’t stop your life, it should motivate you to live it.  So, here is a homework assignment for you:  Think of one thing you’ve always wanted to do and make it happen.  Climb a mountain, learn a language, take a class, it can be anything.  This goes for those of you without the mutation too.  Why wait for something like this to wake you up and make you do the things you’ve always wanted to do?  Asking yourself that creepy little question isn’t fun, but you are forced to really grasp the one certainty in life:  Everyone will die someday, whether it’s tomorrow or 70 years from now.  It really doesn’t matter how or when you die, it matters how you live.  Realizing that has been a gift and I can’t wait to share all the things I have planned after this small chapter of my life is finished.

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