Thursday, October 15, 2009

Certainty and its discontents

The closer I come to surgery, and the more comfortable I become with my decision, the less imperative I find it to try to convince others that I'm making the right choice. You think I'm too young? You think I'm overreacting? You think I'm making a terrible mistake? You are entitled to those opinions, and nothing I say is going to change them. Of course, I respectfully disagree. But I wouldn't claim I'm right and my imagined interlocutor is wrong. We're just different people. And thus have different hopes and fears and thresholds of anxiety.

I'm no longer interested in converting anyone. I'm a very political person, and I am very outspoken and impassioned about my beliefs. But I'm not interested in getting into screaming matches anymore. I can't convince someone who thinks Obama is the Antichrist they are wrong any more than they can convince me they are right. So why bother? I've come to realize certain opinions are intractable, and that gut instinct, the answer to that what-would-I-do-if-were-in-her-shoes question, is usually lasting. My gut instinct was cut 'em off, and in many ways my pro-surgery stance is immutable, too. Nothing, no hypothetical scenarios about death or disease coming in ways I can't anticipate, can change that.

Because, you see, I'm not having preventative surgeries to improve my life expectancy. I have no idea how long I've got on this earth, and I don't think that my death is predetermined. I believe in a random, chaotic, and ultimately meaningless universe, and I can't know when my end is nigh. I'm having preventative surgeries to improve my not-having-breast-cancer expectancy. That's it. I don't pretend that somehow these surgeries will leave me impervious to other illnesses or make me magically immortal. I'm just trying to rein in my risk of having breast cancer. And with that, my anxiety about getting breast cancer. I'm having preventative surgery to improve my quality of life, as well, because I know that always waiting for the other shoe to drop -- always sleeping with one eye open, and every other cliché about expecting imminent bad news -- will kill me quicker than any cancer could. Because my favorite thing about my body isn't my boobs -- it's my joie de vivre. And I'd rather preserve the latter than the former.

I know what I'm doing is shocking. It's dramatic. It's violent. It's irreversible. But it's the right choice for me. Some people will get it, some will not. It takes all kinds. We can coexist. I'm not going to try to change your mind. So please don't try to change mine.


  1. To us other BRCA-ers what you're doing is certainly not shocking, dramatic, or violent! (At least not to me.) Let people think what they want. When you're 80 and breast-cancer free, who will have the last laugh? :)

  2. What a powerful post!

    I should email it to my coworker with the bad "you're being dramatic" advice!


  3. Thanks, guys! I'm just having one of those I'm-having-a-PBM-hear-me-roar kind of days. I know you know how I feel.

  4. Thanks for this Steph. As usual, you've hit the nail dead on - it's about preventing BREAST CANCER! As I have said, I have no idea what's going to kill me, but I've decided that THIS isn't going to. I