I recently found out that I carry the BRCA 1 genetic mutation, and I'm not freaking out.
The mutation means that I have a crazy high chance of getting breast cancer. Like, it's practically a guarantee. And ovarian cancer is a strong possibility, too.
You can stop before you barrage me with condolences or compliments. I'll just roll my eyes. And then I'll hug you because I love you. But seriously, don't freak out. I'm not freaking out. Can we just skip freaking out and go to lunch?
Why I decided to undergo genetic testing for breast cancer and ovarian cancer
My mother, Terry Arnold, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and triple negative breast cancer at the same time almost seven years ago. Fortunately, when it comes to cancer treatment, my mom kicks butt. She is doing well now, but she carries the BRCA 1 genetic mutation, which can be passed down to future generations and put them at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers. So naturally, her doctors were eager for my sisters and I to undergo genetic testing.
We all complied, and I found out that I'm the only of one, besides my mother, who carries the gene.
So, I'm a mutant. I was hoping for superpowers. Personally, I think shape-shifting is the coolest power, but we can't all get what we want.
So here's what my actual mutation means: Instead of waiting several years to start mammograms when I'm 40, I'm starting now at age 31. I've already done a blood test and a sonogram to screen for ovarian cancer.
Future plans may include a preemptive mastectomy and removal of my ovaries in the next five to 10 years. I haven't decided what I will do yet, and I plan to have a lot of discussions with health professionals before I start making any decisions.
Empowering myself with knowledge
Before the test, my genetic counselor asked my sisters and I how we were feeling. I felt the same way I feel now. I'm not super excited about it, but I am not freaking out.
I could have the screenings, have the surgeries, be totally healthy, and then get hit by a truck. I could have tested negative for the gene and later be diagnosed with another type of cancer. Things happen. I chose a long time ago to live life fully and without worry. That's just who I am. Knowing that I may one day get breast or ovarian cancer to me is the same as knowing that one day I will die, and so will you, and we don't know when or how that will transpire, and that's just the way it is.
So if you see on Facebook that I'm checking in at a cancer hospital, please do not freak out on my behalf. Because I am not freaking out. I want to share this with you because I think it's important, and I'm glad I'm armed with this knowledge, so that I can make informed decisions. So just be cool. And invite me to lunch because, frankly, I would love that.
Breast cancer and ovarian cancer are two areas MD Anderson is focusing on as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically reduce cancer deaths. Learn more about our Breast and Ovarian Moon Shot.