November is a month of transitions. In my little corner of the world, it generally gets chillier with each passing day. Daylight decreases. A lot. Skies seem grayer. Weather forecasters start inserting into their forecasts words like freezing rain, snow flurries, weather advisories and sometimes even winter storm warnings. All those gray clouds remind me of a different sort of cloud I’ve been living under for a relatively short time, the BRCA2 positive cloud.
It’s an odd feeling to be a member of the tainted gene pool club.
Most breast cancers are not directly linked to hereditary risk factors; rather most are considered to be sporadic. In fact, less than 10% are attributed to BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations. How did I land in this particular minority? I guess that would take some digging…
I remember when my mother learned she was BRCA2 positive. She felt bad about tarnishing my birthday with breast cancer and then she felt bad all over again when she learned she had tarnished my genes as well. Not logical thinking of course, but we women, perhaps especially mothers, are good at that guilt trip thing.
And of course, how could I forget the day I learned I am brca2 positive as well? That was not a good day.
I do not feel guilty about my tainted genes. That would be like feeling bad about who my parents were wouldn’t it?
However, there is a sort of cloud of gloom that comes with knowing you are BRCA positive. The risk of developing cancer during your lifetime is pretty darn high. You know that old saying about the cards being stacked against you…
Suddenly one becomes keenly aware of risk for cancer that quite possibly, maybe even probably, is in one’s future.
It’s sort of like having that very bad forecast for a very bad potential storm down the road. It’s probably coming, you just don’t know exactly when or exactly how bad it will be. You do what you can to prepare, to survive.
And cancer is a very bad shit storm that anyone would want to avoid traveling through if possible. So I’m not one bit surprised that so many are choosing prophylactic measures to avoid it if at all possible. The cloud can be quite daunting. Again, you do what you can.
My family now lives under this cloud right along with me.
Do I worry about my children and their cancer risk?
Sure I do.
Will they all get tested at some point for this mutation?
Probably. This is how we will “keep our eyes to the sky”.
But of course, even testing negative doesn’t remove that cloud. Once cancer has infiltrated your family’s inner circle, the dark cloud will always linger. Nor does testing positive for a gene mutation like BRCA 1 or 2 mean cancer is a sure thing for you, though it certainly darkens the sky.
No, genetic testing is still not a crystal ball.
Hereditary cancer risk for some families is very real, BRCA positive or not. We are making tremendous progress in figuring this stuff out, but there is still much to learn.
Perhaps one day the cloud of hereditary cancer risk will be lifted. And perhaps there will be better options for those trying to avoid the storm.
Until then, those of us living under this particular gray cloud will listen to the “forecasters”, decipher the information and prepare in the best ways that we can.
Is there a dark “cloud” of any type in your family history?
Have you had genetic testing or would you consider it?