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Where It Hurts

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All over. Actually, that’s not true. I just had breast cancer surgery and beginning reconstructive surgery. Right now, it feels like a giant rubber band across my chest. The drain tube under my left arm must have been pushed in too far or pulled out because it is really sore. Hopefully, that will be coming out tomorrow. My surgery was the day before Thanksgiving, making for a fun holiday.


After finding out I had the BRCA-2 gene mutation, the doctors recommended bilateral mastectomy to reduce my chance of recurring breast cancer from 55 percent to 10 percent. It sounded like a good idea at the time. I’m sure it’s still a great idea; just ask me in six months when I’m over the pain and wearing my new Victoria’s Secret bra. Right now, I’m just glad the cancer is out of my body. My dad died at fifty-two of pancreatic cancer and now my younger male cousin has the same thing with less than a month to live, according to the doctors.


I had a tough year when I turned fifty-two. I always thought if I made it to fifty-three, I’d be cancer free. Imagine my surprise when a routine mammogram led to my cancer diagnosis at fifty-four.


I didn’t realize you could get breast cancer from your father. Two of Dad’s sisters died from breast cancer and another one is a breast cancer survivor. Two of my younger cousins died of breast cancer and another one is a six-year survivor. I didn’t realize the so-called breast cancer gene could be passed from father to father to daughter. My grandmother lived into her nineties, my other grandmother into her eighties, and my mom celebrated her eightieth birthday the day of my surgery. Even my OB/GYN seemed to overlooked the aunts as a family history red flag. I thought I was in the 10 percent until I had the gene study and found out I have the BRCA-2 mutation. It came from my dad and before that, my grandfather. They found this out from my family history and another cousin who had the study done first. Our mutations are in the same location on the gene.


Having the mammogram saved my life. Having the gene study saved my life again. Knowing I have the mutation is a blessing. I can take steps to prevent the cancer that took many members of my family. I know it is not a fun diagnosis to be positive, but it’s better than not knowing and finding out too late. My daughters and son can take the test and find out if they received the mutation from my dad or got the good gene from my mom. They have a 50/50 chance of having it. At least, if they know, they can take positive action for cancer prevention.


So, right now, it hurts. A lot. But I’m a survivor. The whole pink ribbon thing has a new meaning for me. I’ll be wearing it proudly.

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