When you think about the major tests you’ve taken in your life, which ones come to mind? Is it your driver’s license test(s), your ACT/SAT tests, a big test you aced, or failed, in high school or college? Or is it a test of the medical variety that comes to mind, such as a biopsy, bone scan or MRI?
I guess the title I chose for this post is an obvious give away about where it’s headed.
Since this week is National Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer Awareness Week I thought it might be a good time for me to share about the day I learned I had “failed” my test for the BRCA2 gene mutation. As tests go, it wasn’t really all that major, but it sure felt like it at the time.
I remember that day well. There are so darn many of “those days” to remember. That day was another one of those “stand-out” days.
After my biopsy confirmed I did indeed have breast cancer, the next big piece of my particular cancer puzzle to figure out was my BRCA status. Since my mother had already tested positive for the mutated gene, the chances were 50/50 that I would as well. I was in the “thinking about getting tested” stage when cancer reared its ugly head speeding up the process for me. Cancer doesn’t allow you to think things over for too long.
I had to wait about two weeks for the test results to come back and of course, my oncologist was out of town during the week of their expected arrival. Feeling more than a bit impatient a day or two after that expected arrival date, I decided to call the clinic and unsuccessfully attempted to talk the nurse into giving me the results over the phone. She emphatically told me the results hadn’t arrived yet and I would have to wait until my scheduled appointment on Tuesday; that was Friday. I didn’t believe her for a minute. I knew the results were in and she was just following proper protocol and I told her so, but she “stuck to her guns.” More waiting.
After hanging up the phone that day, I realized on top of everything else, I had surely sounded cynical, desperate and probably more than a little annoying, but I didn’t care. I felt like I was quite literally fighting for my life.
On the following pleasant Tuesday in May 2010, hubby and I waited calmly in the exam room wondering about the next bomb shell. My oncologist slowly entered the room carrying the purple folder. If you’ve had the test, you know about the purple folder; at least it wasn’t pink.
Immediately I knew from his demeanor what the results were. Actually, I knew even before he entered the room. Some things you just know. Call it woman’s intuition, or whatever else you choose, I somehow knew what the results would be.
My hubby, my oncologist and I calmly looked at the white sticker that had been attached to my purple folder. There they were. The same words I had seen on my mother’s folder; positive for deleterious mutation. The same dreaded words in the same dark bold-faced black letters as if to further emphasize my doom.
Positive for Deleterious Mutation. I read the words over and over and all I could think of was that they sounded more like words to describe some serious mental illness. I hope that doesn’t sound offensive to anyone who has suffered from mental illness. If they do, I apologize.
We weren’t surprised, or at least hubby and I were not. We were becoming more accustomed to hearing bad news. However seeing the words written down and then stated out loud, somehow amplified their power and significance.
The results were in and they were conclusive, not even “suspicious.”
My genes were tainted. It was time to fine-tune our plan of attack.
More on that later.
What’s a test you failed?
Do you believe in intuition?
Have you had genetic testing or counseling?