Cancer is always a devastating diagnosis; a genetic makeup showing a propensity for the BRCA 1 defect brings an outlook even more overwhelming. Ten years ago my cancer diagnosis featured this arguably most dreaded form. BRCA 1, triple negative breast cancer grows and spreads quickly, all the while being statistically high in recurrence. Seeing my oncologist shake his head when perusing my chart unmistakably brings home the reality of mortality at each visit.
My diagnosis wasn’t the first for a forty-something woman on my maternal side, but my survival for a full decade is a first. At least three generations before me – mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother – shared this gene. They died at 58, 42, and 40-something – one of them just two weeks after diagnosis, while my mother survived for almost five years. Our 28 year old daughter didn’t escape either, even though she was 20 weeks pregnant at the time of her diagnosis.
As they say, life marches on. This October marks my tenth cancer-versary, a term coined by those counted among the unwilling souls who are in the Cancer Club. Had my younger sister not berated me for my unwillingness to resume an annual mammogram, my outcome would most likely have been as poor as those who came before me. Although not my first checkup, it was the first in a few years. Fear of what seemed like the inevitable kept me from scheduling.
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