My BRCA Story (part 3)
I thought that awaiting BRCA results was anxiety-provoking, until I had my positive diagnosis. Options were screaming my name, even though I had already decided to just increase monitoring. An MRI was scheduled for a few weeks later, yet couldn’t come soon enough.
Fear of disease and an early death swirled in my brain, like a swarm of bees that wouldn’t leave me be. “What-if” and “Should-I” shadowed my days. What if I just monitor and I do get breast cancer while I’m still caring for my two girls? Should I have bilateral mastectomy surgery when I don’t even have an actual cancer diagnosis? What if I regret it? Or what if I get breast cancer anyway? Or die of another cancer? I felt plagued by the notion of waiting, then possibly regretting. Alannis Morrisette’s song “Ironic” played on repeat in my head. Perhaps, I feared regret over my decisions more than death itself. But death felt so imminent suddenly with this BRCA genetic mutation.
And then it happened.
A few weeks after my BRCA news, my beloved brother-in-law died in a house fire. Poof! His life was over in one night. Without warning. Without goodbyes and I-love-yous. Gone.
My anxiety skyrocketed with my grief. I have to do all that I can to stay here! Once upon a time, I had solid beliefs about afterlife and multiple lifetimes, and now, I could only see this one. Desperate for longevity, I developed a death grip on this precious, precarious thing called life.
The BRCA2 genetic mutation explicitly affects breasts, ovaries, pancreas and skin. Think about it…how many of those can be removed reasonably? Colon cancer is also highly prevalent in my family, so I thought, “Should I just remove that organ too?!”
Less than a week later, I decided to carry on with my MRI appt. When they warned me about the rare chance of an allergic reaction, I commented in a more serious than sarcastic tone, how they “should have the Epi pens nearby with how my life is going lately”.
Toward the end of the MRI, the gadolinium dye entered my body. From the first instant, it felt like my body was lit on fire and I could barely breathe…scary sensations that I hope my brother-in-law never felt in his last moments. I seriously thought that I was going to die. Right there. In that mega magnetic machine.
For weeks afterward, I walked around in a fragile fog of “I-could-die-at-any-moment”. Thoughts of death haunted me. I could get hit pulling my car out of our street onto the busy road. I could eat e-coli laced spinach. I could have a deadly cancer growing in my body unbeknownst to me. Right. Now.
Buh-bye essential BRCA MRI monitoring…hello surgical options.
Whether you chose/are choosing monitoring or preventative surgeries, what lead you to that decision?