This post is kind of out of order. I have so much more story to tell about our BRCA journey, but it’s time to tell this part simply due to time.
I am a BRCA 1 and 2 genetic mutation carrier. It’s a mutation that flows down through generations. It’s a mutation that drastically increases my risk for breast and ovarian cancer over my lifetime.
According to cancer.gov “About 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives. By contrast, according to the most recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70 years.”
There isn’t much research about the statistics of someone who is both BRCA 1 and 2 positive, simply because it’s incredibly rare to carry both mutations.
When we discovered my BRCA mutations, I was immediately placed on a high risk screening program for both breast and ovarian cancer. An MRI, mammogram, and/or ultrasound were ordered every 6 months. I’ve been on that program for the past 3 years and am so grateful for all the amazing people who aided in my screening and were overly thorough.
But there came a time once Lucy was weaned when I started to feel unsettled about all of it. I don’t know that I have the words to describe the way I felt. It was something close to restless. There was a stirring in my soul. It was time to make decisions about what the future would look like.
I was already beginning to get weary over the constant screenings. I was appreciative and grateful that they were looking, but it was getting old quick. It felt like we were always looking to find something. It seemed like it was just a “matter of time.”
I started praying about what that looked like or meant for me. Do I want to just keep looking? Or do I want to do something more aggressive? What if I decide to do something aggressive? Would that be acting out of fear or out of action?
For some reason, I felt like it was time to draw a line in the sand and stand on one side or the other. Do I keep doing high risk screening? Or do I have surgery to reduce my risk as much as possible? I was reading book after book about women who were faced with the same decision I was, and I was finding no solace at all. The way they felt, wasn’t the way I felt. It seemed like such an easy decision to them. It wasn’t an easy decision for me. I was wrestling with what was right for me and my family and my future.
I started seeking God on all these questions and more. I didn’t want to make a decision out of fear. I knew that no matter how this BRCA story ended, God would get the glory. Cancer, no cancer, live, die, ultimately, He would get the glory.
I also starting pressing Brian about it. What did he think? What were his opinions long term? How would he want us to fight these statistics.
We also sought Biblical council. I sat across the table from several Godly women who had battled breast cancer. I had coffee with women who had had mastectomies to reduce their risk. Brian and I sat in our pastor’s office and sought his wisdom and understanding.
Mostly, I was afraid I would make the wrong decision. I didn’t really care (and don’t care) what other people thought about my decision. At first I had the thought that maybe people would think I lacked faith if I decided to have surgery to reduce my risk. I quickly remembered that I am not concerned with what other people think. I’m only concerned with what Jesus thinks.
One of the women I sat across the table from asked me how much I had really sought the Lord on this decision. Initially I was really praying and seeking God about it a lot, but over time, I started reading book after book and asking everyone close to me what they thought. But I hadn’t really asked God what He thought.
So on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, Brian took the big kids out for a while so I could clean and the littles could nap. I swept the hardwood floors in our living room in silence. My heart was heavy and my soul felt tired. The weight felt like more than I could carry.
And much like the cry I let out to the Lord in the MRI machine when I decided it was time to surrender this to Him, I audibly spoke the words “Lord” in my empty living room with a mop in my hand and tears streaming down my face.
I didn’t know what else to say. I knew that He would follow me, love me, be with, no matter what I decided, but I needed His spirit to lead me. I needed for Him to whisper “stay” or “go.”
I wept that day while mopping those hardwood floors. I wasn’t sad, I was just overcome. Grateful. Heavy.
Grateful for the knowledge of my DNA….things my mom didn’t know about her body when she was my age. I was overcome with His love and heavy with the weight of what a BRCA mutation meant not only for me but for my babies.
I needed guidance.
And in the middle of me weeping over soapy hardwood floors, I heard the tender whisper of the a single word….
Instantly a weight was lifted. It wasn’t because that was the answer I wanted. It was because the line was drawn. It was time to fight.
In Exodus 14:14-15, the Lord speaks to Moses while leading the Israelites out of Egypt. They were being pursued by the Egyptian and chariots. God told Moses, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
People often hang on this verse alone thinking it means that they should just be still and wait for God to move. But that’s not all God said to Moses. Immediately after He told Moses to be still, He said, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”
Immediately following these words from the Lord, Moses raised his staff and the Red Sea parted allowing the Israelites to escape the Egyptians.
The word fight whispered to me while mopping those floors sounded just like “move” to my soul.
So we’re moving. We’ve been in the process of meeting with and choosing surgeons over the past couple months, and a week from today, I will undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. I’ll be in surgery roughly 5 1/2 hours and will recover for 3-4 weeks after that.
Sometimes staying still is exactly what God asks us to do. But more often than not, he tells us to move. To fight. To not be afraid.
This is the beginning of the fight.