October 28, 2017
Thyroid cancer (and my mother’s bout with breast cancer in her early thirties) led me to the BRCA genetic testing in my twenties. I tested positive and lived in fear of the next diagnosis. The scanxiety (and desire to be well for my daughter) led to my decision to have a preventive double mastectomy at age 32. At age 36, I had a relatively sudden full hysterectomy—no doubt a decision accelerated by the BRCA1+ diagnosis. These stickers mark scars I carry. Each one has (in time) deepened my knowing and love of self. Yet it’s been a rocky road. I still do occasionally stop to wonder what choices I would have made along the way if the statistics were different (and if I had learned the tools I have now for taking care of myself—though hindsight is 20/20.).
Sadly, 1 in 8 US women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. For women with the BRCA mutation, the risk goes up to 90% over a lifetime. We do not seem to be any closer to a cure with all the billions raised with pink ribbons. Perhaps we need less marketing and more focused research for a cure and for treatments for those living with metastatic Stage IV breast cancer? We certainly need to do better with the conversation around what happens to our bodies and how we are viewed as women in this whole conversation. Femininity is not granted by slapping something pink onto women, nor it is removed when our bodies change.