What happens if you have tested positive for the BRAC2 mutated gene? I’m still not sure I even know or understand all the repercussions of knowing I have this mutation. I can just write about what I know to be true for my particular case and what I’ve learned or been told by doctors along the way.
I didn’t undergo genetic testing until after I had already been diagnosed with breast cancer. The truth is I didn’t even know I needed to be tested. Many people in my family had died of cancer including my father, but I had no idea I needed to be concerned about a mutated gene. Once I tested positive for the BRAC2 mutated gene, my education began.
A double mastectomy had already been completed. I had chosen this route due to my family history of cancer and in hopes of avoiding going through chemotherapy and radiation. That mutated gene changed all that. Chemotherapy became a must and radiation wasn’t off the table either. But that was only the beginning of a series of events. Because of the closeness of age between all of my siblings, the genetic counselor suggested they all be tested. Every single one of us would test positive for some type of mutation and four of five of us tested positive for the BRAC2 mutated gene. My dad’s sisters would also be tested. And our paternal cousins would be tested too. The number of mutated genes climbed and probably will continue to do so as others are still awaiting testing. As I was reaching the middle of my chemo treatments, my two younger sisters were making preparations for preventive total hysterectomies and double mastectomies. It was devasting news to me and to them and would change us all in very different ways.
Because of that pesky mutation, I would follow in my younger sisters’ footsteps just as they had followed in mine. Eight months after my last chemo treatment a mass was found on my uterus and a cyst on my overy, I too had to have a total hysterectomy. The risk of cancer was too great to wait.
That sounds like enough, but I’m not finished yet. The BRAC2 mutation also puts you at greater risk of developing skin cancer, so this week I visited a dermatologist. This was an interesting visit. I learned this spot I developed on my face is really a mole that isn’t anything to worry about, but it also won’t ever go away. Boo! Hiss! I don’t really like it much. I have a little dry skin and despite years and years of sun exposure without being lathered up in sunscreen, I have very minimal to no skin damage. According to the doctor, my skin is about the same as someone 25 years my junior. Whoop! Whoop! I’m pretty sure I can thank my momma for that blessing. She’s always looked much younger than her actual age. Bad cancer gene. Great skin gene. I guess it’s a little give and take there. 😏
At some point in the next year, I’ll have to have a colonoscopy. Why? You guessed it! That BRAC2 gene puts me at greater risk of getting prostrate cancer too. Does it ever end? No, it really doesn’t because they just don’t have enough cases to study. I’ve just been told I’m currently at a higher risk for developing nearly every other type of cancer. That was just too depressing of news for me. It could eat me to death with fear if I let it. I chose to let that all go. I’ll do the things I’ve been told to decrease my risk factors; such as, avoiding smoking, drugs, alcohol, great amounts of stress, poor diet and lack of exercise. The fear part? I handed that over to God. I can’t control the “what if” part of my future. He can. I’m letting Him use me where I am to prepare me for whatever comes. Worry probably destroys more lives than cancer anyway.
But as you can see from above, my life isn’t the only one affected by this mutated gene. My siblings have dealt with their own issues. My aunts and cousins have had to make hard choices too and one has walked this breast cancer journey right along side me. That’s all difficult, but not as difficult as knowing there’s a fifty percent chance I passed this mutated gene on to each of my children. What will that mean for them and their futures? One child plans to be tested, and one child doesn’t really care to be. Their minds might change as they grow older, consider marriage and starting families, but for now they are in waiting. I have to have faith that God has a beautiful future in store for them both regardless of their genes.
Faith. That’s been the greatest and best thing that’s come out of my breast cancer adventure. (That really sounds more interesting than journey, don’t you think?) 😊 I’ve developed a close relationship with Christ. He’s shown me a glimpse of life through His eyes. I’ve experienced peace like I never knew existed, but I’m pretty sure that’s what heaven is like. Knowing that makes it even more attractive than those pictures of golden mansions and crystal clear waters. I crave to feel that peaceful every day.
God had a plan for this life of mine, and it has been good. He has one for each of us; and no matter what battle you’re currently fighting (because we are all fighting one), have faith that He holds you close and all will be made good in His eyes as long as you have faith and trust in Him and His ways.