Genetically Modified

I just came back from a meeting with my genetic counselor, and while the news would have scared me three months ago, today, I am dancing on air. First and foremost, I do not have a variant for breast or ovarian cancer, so my breast cancer was a simple luck of the draw. But, thanks to my Ashkenazi ancestors, I do have a small mutation that slightly increases my risk for colon cancer. Ok, fine. It simply means regular screening for me and for my children and I think we can live with that. It does not mean losing any more body parts, at least not in the near term, and for that I am so utterly grateful.

I know several people who have a BRCA mutation, and have had to have radical surgery, and they are brave and strong and amazing and I’m sure I would have managed. But it’s certainly a comfort to know that all I have to do is put one foot in front of the other, go to chemo class tomorrow, get through chemo and radiation and drug therapy and not have an entirely new set of hurdles at the end of that.

The genetic counselor was running about 15 minutes late and I had worked myself up into quite a state during that wait, trying to talk myself into or out of good or bad news. And I think that’s what is so wily about cancer. Any piece of news — genetic testing, lab results, white cell counts, infections — can alter what happens next and what happens after that. So I simply can’t get too attached to anything. I can’t plan for next Thursday because I don’t know what will happen between now and then, or how I’m going to feel, or what my energy level will be like. I can’t take a friend up on their offer to take a walk when they have a day off next week if they need to plan ahead, and forget about planning for the holidays. Planning ahead went out the window in mid-June and I will be well into 2019 before I can do that, if then.

But at least for today, I don’t have to add a mastectomy or oophorectomy to the possible scenarios, and what’s a little extra colon screening among friends. It’s a good day.

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