Wednesday, May 6, 2015

BRCA testing ten years later

A little over ten years ago Dr. Masiky wrote an order for me to go speak to a genetics counselor at GW about BRCA testing.  My maternal grandmother died of breast cancer.  She had been diagnosed in her late thirties.  All four of my grandmother's sisters are breast cancer survivors.  I put the order in my day planner and did nothing else with it.  Each year when I got a new planner I moved the order to the new planner.  I was too scared to do anything with it and too young to realize the importance.  

In 2009, Michelle and I completed the Breast Cancer 3-Day together.  We walked 60 miles in three days to raise awareness about Breast Cancer.  My order to see the genetics counselor was in my day planner which was in my bag during the walk. My mom had promised that if we completed the 3 Day, she would be better about mammograms.  I nagged her about it, yet I was the one carrying around a four year old order to talk to someone about genetic testing.

We walked for Bea, Betty, Kate and Jule.
at the finish line of 60 miles in 3 days.

When Brandon and I met with Dr. Levy in 2012 to talk about starting our family, I was still carrying around the seven year old order to talk someone at GW.  Just like Dr. Masiky had done, Dr. Levy encouraged me to do genetic testing to find out if I was a carrier or not.  I nodded and smiled and still did not do it.  Now, almost three years later, I have a beautiful (almost) 18 month old little girl running around.  And it is because of her that I finally hold a much different perspective on getting tested.  

I need to show Natalie what a strong, brave, intelligent woman looks like.  I need to show Natalie how to take control of her health and be responsible about women's health issues. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and with our extensive family history, it seems foolish not to try to take control and be pro-active about it.  I have been looking into doing the BRCA carrier screening for the last few months.  The results of the test will tell me I am one of two things: a carrier or not a carrier.  Simple as that.  It doesn't mean that I will get cancer if I am a carrier.  It doesn't mean I won't get cancer if I am not a carrier.  But it's knowledge and knowledge is power.  Over the last few days Natalie has been pulling my scrapbook from the Breast Cancer 3-Day off the shelf to look at the pictures. I couldn't help but take it as a sign that it was time to do something.

How can I hope to raise a strong, smart, health conscious daughter, if I myself am not being pro-active about my own health? It's an important issue in women's health and I am the front line for teaching her awareness.  If I am not a carrier, then I will go about my life doing regular self-exams, have my annual visit with my GYN and start mammograms at 40 like every woman should.  If I am a carrier, then I will go about my life doing regular self-exams, have my annual visit with my GYN and start mammograms at 30.  A big change but a simple one.  I think this is a huge (somewhat scary) step, but it is one that I think is incredibly important.  So on Monday, I finally threw away that order to speak with a genetics counselor at GW and took action.  Now we wait. 

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