Updated: Jun 10, 2019
I can honestly say that finding out that I carried the BRCA1 genetic mutation threw me a bit off balance. I knew that I by no means had won the genetic lottery but with limited history of cancer on either side of my family, I honestly thought that the genetic counselor was about to say aw shucks I totally $hitting you! But yet she wasn't and I am mutated. Had you asked me before all of this mess I would have admitted thatI had been a quirky awkward shy kid that has turned into a somewhat quirky awkward adult. I also come from a family of giant people where the shortest among us is well me at 5'10". I remember from an early age that I wanted to blend in, be quiet and for the love of God just not be noticed. I wished so hard to be like a chameleon that could change color and blend into the worst tiling on any locker room wall, slip into the back row of any classroom, avoid all fields on which you would be required to throw a ball, participate in swimming during PE (yes, we had a gigantic pool in the school and there are only so many times you can claim that it is "that time of the month", and the worst of all was the square dancing at 5'10" with boys who faces we right at my budding breasts (I mean really was Square Dancing really in the New York PE standards in the 80's?)...I could go on but you have gotten my point. Kids in the 80's weren't kind. It was survival of the fittest like in, "Lord of the Flies". If you are young and reading this you may be shocked to hear that there were no safe spaces. The only thing I had going for me was the fact that the only phone I had access to was in my kitchen on a very long cord and no one could bully me at home. I do not know how teenager are living through 24 hour a day drama! So of course the "cool" kids had favorite nicknames for me like Daddy Long Legs, Bean Pole and Jolly Green Giant and that was awesome. Anyway, perhaps never blending in as I had hoped led to the anxiety, but I prefer to blame it on genetics. I also come from a long line of anxiety sufferers, and I say this because they literally suffer! No medication for that generation, I mean seriously I medicate on a daily basis as science has given me the opportunity to live a better life. Plus, I really couldn't continue being drunk, or as I liked to refer to it, "socially lubricated" after high school. That would have just led to jail time (think Piper in Orange is the New Black only taller). Now after having admitted that, I would also like you to know that I have sought counseling and medical assistance for anxiety since my early 20s. My parents also don't do counseling because you should really just, "get over it" and God forbid we talk about how weird I was growing up and they get blamed. But I am blaming them today, genetically my mom really came through with the dysfunctional thyroid gland and the rampant anxiety and dad, well he needs a whole other blog, but man did he really deliver with the BRCA1 gene. This year I may rethink his Father's Day gift, perhaps just a card. Maybe one with all that glitter in it so that after you open it you can never rid your home of all of it! You now know that I have made it to age 48 and after much talk therapy and nightly meds I am now able to let my freak flag fly. I will participate in sports (even swimming) or dance at random times like no one is watching, as I have now learned to love my genetically imperfect self. But there is someone very special that we must now discuss so I must take us back to Y2K and the year 1999 and introduce my girl, Sierra. In my 29th year, I would decide that it was a grand idea to make a child in my likeness. I was married, had a college degree and a career, so what the hell and why not? It was super easy as I got pregnant within the first 2 months after going off of the pill and I wasn't sick a day for 9 straight months. Interestingly, I also had no anxiety but I found out later that I was saving up all of that angst until we brought her home, because wow was that part eye opening. Although like all parents, we found this new creature to be absolutely perfect at first, I started to question that thought after the no sleeping and the crying for months and that was just me! Just kidding, but seriously apparently our baby was genetically predisposed never sleep and cry ALL the time. Fast forward...we persevered in and out of the wild rumpus and through the Wildthings and Harry Potter and Junie B. Jones and turtles and fish and cats and preschool and we came away with one pretty awesome kid. But alas, by Kindergarten she was by far the tallest one in the bunch which I thought would set in motion an onslaught of ridicule and nicknames but ahhhh, it is a brand new world and bullying is mostly unacceptable. But even if it would have been acceptable, I had given birth to a way different child than myself, this girl has always beat her drum loudly and she is for sure her own drummer. Do not approach her drum or dorm room as she might bite (not kidding). It is still not clear to me as to why I had to wait until 40 to find my confidence, but I am so glad that the anxiety gene skipped a generation. Throughout her high school years, of course, there have been times when I have questioned her sanity and mine but my diagnosis has always come back to her just being a teenager. But now sitting here in my 48th year again, I wonder what if I had known almost 20 years ago about my BRCA1 status? Would I have been too terrified to procreate? Would I have missed "The Dance" as Garth Brooks would say? I am so glad that I didn't know, and know matter what genetic code I have passed on to her, I am so blessed as she brings so much light to this world. Sierra will not be tested for the BRCA gene until she is settled in her career and has life and disability insurance as the genetic counselor has advised that if she tests positive she will not be approved. So now we wait, but I hope if she is positive for some terrifying genetic mutation that it doesn't ever change her story and that she lets it unfold, come what may!...to be continued.