Regret is the feeling that I feared the most after hearing my BRCA2 genetic mutation news. It is an emotion that can either kick you into action after a past of passivity, or it can keep you stuck in her sticky web of rumination. Will I regret frequent monitoring if I eventually develop cancer? Or, will I regret having surgery?
Regret and I have a longstanding, challenging relationship. Today, I found this piece of freewriting in a journal that says it all.
Good only at laying on the guilt
Keeping me chained to the past
Unable to enjoy the present
Preventing my stride, into the future.
She’s like my nemesis
Showing up, to bring me down
Letting me know that I failed, then, so why would I succeed now?
She’s happy when I’m not
She revels in my misery
Takes pleasure in my pain
You should have tried harder
You should have made a different choice
When I listen to her “should”s, I resent her the most
I should not listen to Regret’s threats
I should not believe that I am not worthy of greatness
I should not waste time worrying about the past
The past is history
The present is my story
…Move along, Regret!
In the end, I underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, yet my regrets seem different from many women who undergo the same. They love the physical results of their breasts and belly (especially if they had the DIEP Flap reconstruction). I cannot say that I love my physical results, especially the lack of breast sensations and increase in abdominal tension. However, I do love that going through the process of the surgery transformed me in many other ways, including the freedom from feeling so much regret in my life.
Thus, as of now, I don’t regret having prophylactic surgery. But, will I?
Nevertheless, in a recent post, I wrote about the research organization called HeritX, which has since changed their name to Cancer Prevention Initiative (CPI). I was introduced to their work at a BRCA conference a few years ago. It took me that long to finally write about them. Once I posted it to my blog, I knew why. When CPI is successful in repairing mutated genes like BRCA through a simple vaccine, will I regret having my bilateral mastectomy surgery? Right now, I don’t believe so. Surely, I will be grateful for the benefit of my two daughters and others like them. And that’s just it–gratitude is a great antidote for regret.
Anne Frank clearly disagreed, with her famous quote:
Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude.
So make the choice to shower your loved ones with flowers as you share how grateful you are for their presence in your life. Gratitude will help regret to “move along”!