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Tiny Spider Web on chain link fence

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.


Unuseful, unhelpful

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”!