Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss

At some point, perhaps when one of my sisters was tested for the BRCA gene, I decided I would not have the test.

Donna tested first, although for her it was a foregone conclusion really. She was already in the throes of cancer, fighting it with all her might. But testing and knowing that she is BRCA2 positive enabled them to tailor her cancer treatment. And it gave the green light for her daughter, and her sisters, and her cousins to be tested too. We can be tested and it will likely be covered. We have more than family history to report now. In addition to reporting to my ob-gyn that my paternal grandmother had breast cancer, my paternal aunt had breast cancer, and my cousin—my paternal uncle’s daughter—has breast cancer, I can say oh, and she knows she is positive for the BRCA2 mutation.

Which is exactly what I did. While she was gingerly doing her thing with speculum and swab, I updated my medical history.

I can’t quite remember the next detail, but I think she simply asked if I wanted the test, and I told her I didn’t.

“Why not?” She asked.

I was too busy trying to hold back tears to answer her—lying on one’s back on a table with your feet in stirrups not being an ideal place to cry.

She asked again, and I still didn’t answer, although at this point—despite my efforts—a few tears had leaked and were running down the side of my face.

She answered for me. “You don’t want to know?”

And there it was, the answer I couldn’t speak: I don’t want to know if I have the mutation. I don’t want to know if I have a genetic predisposition to cancer. I’ll deal with it if and when I have to.

“No, I don’t, “I finally said.

“Why not?” she asked, but instead of waiting for an answer gave me a litany of good reasons to find out.

Then off came her gloves, and she instructed me to get dressed and meet her in her office, where we would talk about it some more.

I was content to be happy-stupid and she gave compelling reasons to be tested. If, and it’s still an if, I were positive I would be followed by a surgeon, I’d have better preventative care—up to and including having my ovaries removed (because with the mutation is a high risk of ovarian cancer) if I know for sure I don’t want children.

I was moving along thinking Ignorance is Bliss. What I was reminded was Knowledge is Power.

1 comment:

Tam said...

Absolutely, my dear friend. Knowledge is always power.

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