I've had a rough go of it lately. This past week has been, by far, the most difficult I've endured. So difficult, in fact, that I've found it very hard to write about. Even journaling about my anxiety couldn't temper my fear and bring me understanding and peace. I have composed and erased this post a half a dozen times, and it never seems to come out quite right. But that's symbolic of what I've discovered recently: in my new world, things aren't ever going to be quite the way I wish they could be.
A lot of realities converged on me this week. It started out well: on Sunday, I attended a local support group populated by brave, diverse women of all shapes, sizes, and ages, all of whom, like me, are at high-risk for cancer, either because they, too, are genetic mutation carriers or because they have a strong family history (it should be noted that strong family history does not always indicate a mutation). Many of the women had already gone through surgery -- some had removed their breasts, some their ovaries, some both. There was even a show-and-tell portion of the evening when brave women doffed their shirts and bras and submitted to fondling and inspection by us pre-ops (if you had told me a month ago I would have found myself feeling up strangers on Sunday nights in the suburbs, I'd have thought you were lying, but alas, that's exactly what I found myself doing last week). The reconstructions looked good -- think perky porn star good. Pert grapefruit halves good. Gravity defying orbs good. In fact, there are lots of women out there who are willing to pay to have their breasts look like that. But, unfortunately, they aren't real boobs good. They feel funny, like sacks of gelatin. The loose skin can ripple around the implant. And there are the scars -- angry reminders of what lies beneath. I saw incisions under the boob; I saw incisions across the boob; I even saw incisions straight down the middle of the boob (and nippleless boobs, too, though so-called "nipple-sparing" procedures are more common today). Overall, I saw really wonderful examples of advances in surgical and reconstruction technology; but, in the end, no matter how well the final result approximated natural breasts, they weren't. And I think that's what set me off.
I realized that being BRCA2+ means, essentially, that, when it comes to pretty important parts of my body, I can no longer have my way. If I had my way, I'd keep my boobs (and my ovaries, but that's not something I have the mental capacity to process yet); as I've mentioned, I'm quite fond of my ta-tas, they have many admirers, and they are currently scarless, gelatin-sackless, and natural. They fill out a swimsuit well. They don't get in my way when I do yoga. And, perhaps most critically, they have the potential, should the occasion arise, to provide milk for my child. Being BRCA2+ (and pursuing surgery, which I'm more and more convinced I need to do every day, even if I'm less and less thrilled by the choice) means that I'll look different, my breasts will feel alien, and most devastatingly, I will never be able to breastfeed. And that sucks. At so many points this week, as I was being pummeled by all of these new, inarguable realities, I felt like stomping my feet and balling up my fists and throwing a fit because that's what little princesses do when they aren't getting their way. But I can't scream and cry and hold my breath until my face turns blue with this one. I can't stick out my bottom lip and act all cute until I get what I want. I'm stuck. It's a choice between shit and shit, and, unfortunately, I realized this week that I'm just shit out of luck. I got angry and scared, and at points, I felt like I was going to faint from the stress.
Also this week, I started to worry that I'm already sick. Well, I shouldn't say *started* since I tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac (I'm always pretty convinced that every little creak and ache portends a grizzly demise from some fast-acting disease); in fact, as I've noted, my right breast started hurting almost immediately after my father told me about the mutation. But for some reason -- which I think I've figured out, because spending my free time psychoanalyzing myself is, next to watching marathons of America's Next Top Model reruns, the best way to kill a few hours -- I became convinced this week that the ache in my breast is real, that I'm already ill, and that I'm already too late. Whether or not I am is to be determined (to find out what's doing in my bosom I'm scheduled for an MRI Tuesday afternoon, which I plan to recount in all its claustrophobic glory here later this week), but a side effect of all of this is that I am pretty much, until I learn how to deal or just go batshit crazy, in a constant state of near-panic. I was scared about my genetic testing results. Now I'm anxious about the findings of the MRI. Next I'll be terrified of surgery. Then I'll be worried about my ovaries. It's a constant cycle of transferring -- once I overcome and accept something there's always something new to fear. BRCA2+, and the anxiety that comes along with it, is the gift that keeps on giving. And it's a gift I wish I could return.
So, as I said, it's been a crappy week. But it's to be expected. I can't be funny-hey-everything's-OK girl all the time. This is a story as much about my emotional as it is my physical journey, and I'm documenting it all, the good, the bad, and the downright shitty.