Thursday, September 6, 2007

Waiting to Exhale

Yes, I’ve been quiet for a while. School has been very busy, but then I was also occupied with worry that changed into feeling a bit shell-shocked at the moment.

I’ve told you before that my mom had breast cancer 10 years ago, and that it returned in February this year. My sister L had breast cancer 5 years ago when she was 34. To complete the genealogical picture, my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer when she was 54.

The scare we got when my mom’s cancer returned prompted L to ask her oncologist about genetic testing because of the family history. He thought it a good idea, and so the wheels started rolling.

On Tuesday we got the results of my mom’s blood tests. She has the BRCA2 mutation. This means that my two sisters and I each have a 50% chance of having the gene as well. We had our blood drawn for the (very expensive!) blood tests, and so the 2nd part of this waiting game began. Within the next 3 weeks we’ll know if we inherited something we’d rather not have.

No matter how positive I try to be, the reality is very, very scary.

My mom’s cancer will definitely return. Her treatment will determine the time it takes to start out again. L’s cancer might return, all depending on the result of the blood test. W & me are worried that one of us is next in line.

These are the facts: women with the BRCA2 mutation, has an 80% chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer in their lifetime. These women also have an increased risk of developing colon cancer. If you do have the gene mutation, it’s not a given that you’ll get breast cancer, but taking preventative measurements will decrease your risk.

It’s these measures that scares me, even though the choice will be mine in the end. A preventative mastectomy reduces your chances of breast cancer by 90%. Having a salpingo-oophorectomy – the big word for having your ovaries and tubes removed – is another option. And when you have that done, it’s better to have a histerectomy as well since the hormone therapy you have to take because of the lack of ovaries causes heavy bleeding.

The oncologist in charge of our tests said that she strongly recommends that I go for the salpingo-oophorectomy in the light of the fact that I have PCOS, and seeing that I don’t have much use (or planned use!) for my ovaries and uterus. Even if my tests results are negative for BRCA2. So much for having a few more years to decide if I still want to try to have my own children.

All in all I’m OK, no panic rising in my throat, no bad nightmares, just a bit shell-shocked. I know it’s no use being over emotional and worried about it, and losing sleep stressing about the results of the test won’t help either. If it’s positive and my gene at position 12.3 on the long arm of chromosome 13 has a mutation where it’s not supposed to have one, I’ll deal with it as needed.

Until then my ovaries, my uterus and I will have a nice long talk to decide if and when we want to part. But in the small hours of the night I will fervently hope and pray that the decision won’t be taken for me.

21 comments:

Caro said...

Oh wow. I'm sorry you are dealing with this.

Jackie said...

I'm so sorry that you have to go through this awful decision making process or potentially worse things. It sounds like you have some good, honest caregivers looking after you. My heart goes out to you.

Fertilize Me said...

WOAH! KarenO, sending lots of hugs to you overthe blogospere and saying prayers and happy thoughts for your family.

Artblog said...

Simply stunned for you!

You must keep us up to date! Praying only for good news!

Pamela Jeanne said...

I knew something was wrong. What an awful sense of waiting and worrying you must be experiencing. I'm feeling it here and hoping that the test results indicate the genetic tie was broken for you and your sister.

Reproductive Jeans said...

Just adding my hugs and support--I cant imagine all the feelings you are dealing with. Please know I am thinking of you...

Lori said...

KarenO, add me to the chorus of people who are wishing you health and wisdom. For you mom and sister, too.

Schatzi said...

So glad you have gotten tested so that you can make an educated decision. I'm hoping your chromosome (and that of your sister) is mutation-less). {{hugs}} and all my best to you and your family.

Char said...

Wow KarenO! I can't believe you're having to face such enourmous stuff! OK, so that didn't come out the way I wanted it to but I don't have words to say it better. Just want you to know there's a little person who lives in the bush who will be thinking of you lots and wishing I could check your blog daily to find out what's happening... (I'm in Durban this weekend - cyber HEAVEN!) With lots of love and cyber-hugs too.

Furrow said...

What an unfair hand to be dealt. I'm so sorry. I'd been wondering about where you'd been. I hate to hear that you've been going through such torment. I'm hoping for good news from the tests for you.

Carole said...

Karen,
I'm so sorry for all of this. Keeping you close in my thoughts.
~Carole

Changing Expectations said...

I am so sorry that you and your family is going through this. Please know that I am thinking about you.

Kristen said...

I'm so sorry you have to go through this. I will be praying that everything comes back okay. XOXO

MLO said...

I'm so sorry. The waiting and not knowing what is next is so awful. Sometimes, life just seems to suck.

Pax,

MLO

Waiting Amy said...

That is a lot to handle, I'm so sorry for all you and your family are going through. Glad for you that you have this chance to know, and have some measure of control over the events. Hoping for you and your sister that they need not be drastic action. Hoping your mom is sailing through treatment as best she can.

Good thought sent to you all.

Suzie said...

I am so sorry. What a scary thing to go through.

Summer said...

I'm so sorry to hear the news about your sister and what it means for you. I am thinking of you and hoping for the best.

Kami said...

How scary. I hope you and your sister are both free of the gene. I can't imagine what kinds of choices you are now facing.

Geohde said...

Whoah.

Holy crap.

I am so sorry. What a stressful load of things to deal with all at once.

hugs

xx

J

Bea said...

Hoping for the best possible news for all your family - both in terms of the gene, and in terms of later life even if the gene is found. This is a very stressful time for all of you.

Bea

Jenna said...

Shit this is scarey. I know, way to state the obvious Jenna. I'm so srry you've received this information and I can't tell you how my heart sank to read this.
Please know you have so many of us thinking about you and wanting to support you.