I will remember the 14th Dec 2012 vividly for the rest of my life, because it was the day my life changed forever. I knew my dad had the gene, that's why I was tested, along with my siblings. I knew I had a 50/50 chance of having the gene, but you still are never prepared fully for someone to tell you that you have an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and a 67% chance of getting ovarian cancer. I'm not a betting man, but those are not good odds in anyone's books. I also know that I don't have cancer, at the moment, and that that is something to be grateful for. I can only imagine the trauma that it must be to be told you actually have the disease, but for now I'm dealing with the odds.
In true Cotter style, we celebrated, some of us having the gene, some of us not. I know celebrated sounds like a strange thing to do, but for us being strong, seeing the humour in things and carrying on is so important. We headed to the O2 and had a ball at the Coronas. As a family of five with three having the gene, it's been difficult, difficult for those of us with it and even more so for those of us that do not, but we're a close family and always work things out and always see the positive in everything.
Obviously it was hard to get my head around it, it's still a work in progress. I have to be monitored every six months and now have a Breast Specialist, a plastics specialist and a gynaecologist. I have mammograms, MRIs and ovarian scans once a year on a rotating schedule to ensure I'm seen every six months. I have to make the decision whether or not I want to keep my breasts and ovaries, or continue the monitoring for the rest of my life.
I have time to make my decision, 40 being the common age they encourage. I still don't know, but the odds are not good, and as a mother to two small boys, I want to be around for as long as possible. I also don't want to expose them to the stress and trauma of having a mother go through chemo and any other treatment that might be necessary if I do develop the disease. On the other hand there is the operations, the loss of my breasts and ovaries, my femininity, and the onset of early menopause, the effect that will have on me mentally, physically, and the effect it will have on my relationship with my husband. These are all things that whirl around in my head constantly, a muddle of will I or won't Is.
I know I'm lucky to know I have this defective gene, I know I'm lucky to be in a position that if I do develop the disease it will be caught really early, but I do wish sometimes I didn't know, that I didn't have to constantly worry checking my breasts, that I didn't have to get so worked up in the run up to appointments and scans. But ignorance in our case is not bliss, I'm glad I know, it means I can monitor and conquer this disease if it does choose to knock on my door.
I was never sure what I should write in this blog post, I wasn't sure what to say or how much to say. I hope I've given you an small idea of what having the BRCA1 gene entails, but I also hope that if anyone out there who has it too might get in touch. Not having cancer, but living in it's grasps is quite difficult to do and difficult for people to understand, it's nice to have people to talk to who are going through the same thing. Feel free to contact me on my email or through my Facebook page if you have any questions or just want to chat. I look forward to hearing from you.
And I'll leave you on this.......
Life is for celebrating, the ordinary is extraordinary, there is always something to celebrate and appreciate. There is always something to be happy for or about. Life is for living, we just have to remember to do just that LIVE! And of course there is always an excuse for bubbles......
Lots of Love,