Spoiler Alert: If you plan to watch Netflix’s Wine Country starring Amy Poehler and many of her comedienne pals, like Tina Fey, you may want to postpone reading this post (although only one storyline is revealed).
When we gathered for Mother’s Day, my mom was excited to watch Wine Country with her two daughters. It is about a group of lifelong besties who gather in Napa Valley to celebrate Rebecca’s 50th. We had no idea that we were about to witness a character, played by Maya Rudolph, wondering about her BRCA mutation status. Initially, the character named Naomi is avoiding a phone call from her doctor’s office. We were all thinking possibly cancer, and because it is a strong female cast, perhaps, breast cancer. Later during their weekend getaway when she listens to a voicemail left, we learn that it is about a blood test. Leukemia? Still, we never suspect BRCA, even though we remember personally experiencing the anguish she acts out.
When tensions mount between this group of sister-like friends, Naomi blurts out, “I finally took the BRCA gene test…and my results came back and I’m too afraid to call, because I’m not ready to hear that I’m dying of breast cancer, okay?!”
Everyone stands there looking stunned, so Naomi leaves. When they chase after her, one friend named Val calls out, “Naomi, you’re not dying; you’re going to be fine!”
Naomi lashes back about Val acting like some sort of “oracle”, to which Val says she was just trying to be “a nice person”.
For those of you who have delivered your BRCA genetic mutation news to friends, families or strangers, you know that responses can vary greatly. This friend’s response wasn’t heartless, yet not helpful either.
Which brings me to why it is so important to be in BRCA Country. Do all that you can to find and multiply your BRCA support network. Sure, peeps compassionate about your worries can help, but BRCA mutation positive people not only validate your experience, but behave as a sounding board when hard decisions scream out loud. Decisions that no one can fully understand or make for you. However, in order to meet other BRCA+ people, you have to share your diagnosis. Sure, it’s hard, but that is precisely how I met my first non-related BRCA sister. A mutual friend set us up on a coffee date. Because we were both growing vocal about our stories, we each discovered a few more women in similar situations. Initially, we gathered in my home to share information and fears when someone was gearing up for surgery.
Eventually, our 4 member support network doubled to 8 and we started to meet for lunch at a favorite local restaurant. Over power salads, we shared personal updates, such as capsular contracture, highly recommended doctors, and all of the adjustments post surgery that only a BRCA positive person can understand. She will listen without judgement and support whatever decision you need to make. She knows how incredibly scary your future can feel for you.
Although Naomi’s BRCA blood test turned out negative for the BRCA genetic mutation, most importantly, her besties were surrounding her when she called for her results (well, a friend did the calling and communicating). A few other shows are adding the BRCA genetic mutation to their character’s agonizing dilemmas. One such show is Freeform’s The Bold Type; the other is Netflix’s Dead to Me. Thank you, Hollywood, for showing us women who, at the very least, pretend to walk in our shoes.
In order to enter the comfort of BRCA Country, you will definitely have to share your story with others. Contact FORCE to see if they offer a group in your area. Or join a BRCA facebook group and reach out to people with whom you resonate. Either way, you deserve to be supported through one truly confusing diagnosis. I cannot imagine going through what I did without my BRCA Sisters!
What would have been helpful to hear when you delivered your BRCA news?
Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. ~Amy Poehler
Photo credit: Netflix promotion