writer attempting real life in the middle of everybody else's vacation

Ode to medical science

on November 1, 2013

My dad’s mom had the BRCA1 gene mutation. She died at 49. My dad’s only sibling inherited the mutation and had a goal of living to 50–a year longer than her mother. She didn’t make it. She died at 47. Her only daughter (my cousin) just tested positive for the mutation and will have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy after Christmas. To people who blame Angelina Jolie for this overreaction, may I say, fuck you and your horrendous ignorance. Fuck you very much.

And thank you, medical science.

I have no idea if my dad inherited the mutation, he died at 57 and was never tested. But males and females have the same chance (50/50) of inheriting it–something I’ve learned that many people, including my OB/GYN, don’t realize. When I asked about being tested, he seemed skeptical and said he’d have to “look into that.” I resented his reaction and I let him make me feel stupid. This information isn’t all that new. It really isn’t.

Thank you, medical science, for persisting even when practitioners don’t have time to stay abreast of you.

BRCA mutation-related breast cancer only accounts for 5-10 percent of all breast cancer cases. It’s different from the kind your doctor asks you all the maternal-side questions about. It’s aggressive and it keeps coming back, no matter how many times you think you’ve beaten it, because having the mutation means you were born with no ability to fight it. My grandma and aunt suffered extremely painful, ugly deaths. They didn’t get to see what became of their children. They missed knowing their grandchildren. But my cousin (and Angelina Jolie) won’t. And I’m having the genetic test next week.

Thank you, medical science.


14 responses to “Ode to medical science

  1. Non Follower from Key West says:

    Beautiful insight–good luck in your testing and I will circulate your statements far and wide–might save other lives

  2. It is tremendous that such testing is available and has the potential of saving many lives. I’ll be thinking of you as you go in for your own test next week.

  3. Papa Nedz says:

    Good job on the blog, and very to the point. I wonder if that could some how be sent to that doctor and that nurse that chided you.

    On Fri, Nov 1, 2013 at 11:07 AM, R.L. SAUNDERS

  4. Good gene vibes coming your way. I’m glad that medical science can empower people with information to make the best choices possible for their own bodies. I hope you aren’t faced with a choice, but glad you’ll have the information you need for peace of mind.

  5. Thanks, all. Feeling good about it and looking forward to confirming that my kids don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ve inherited it. Mostly, I’m feeling grateful that my cousin’s fate will be so much different than her mom’s and our grandma’s.

  6. Dimples says:

    Praying for a good outcome to your testing. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive…something some physicians sometimes forget about. Please keep your followers posted. Even if you don’t tell of your prognosis, I think we would all like to know what to do if we need to find out this information and what questions we need to ask our physicians. Thank you for sharing, Ms. Saunders.

  7. mary e kessler says:

    BAL with the test. Knowledge is POWER.

  8. Candace Edsall says:

    Good luck and praying that all goes well with your tests..You’re a brave soul and I’d probably do the same if faced with the same challenge.

  9. MaryWitzl says:

    I’ve heard those comments about Angelina Jolie too, and it is mind-boggling that people can be so judgmental. Nobody would elect to have this kind of surgery without having damn good reasons. Years ago, I worked with a woman who’d inherited this and elected to have a double mastectomy at 25–she’d seen too many relatives in her family suffer. Now I can see how perceptive her doctor’s advice was.

  10. Emily says:

    Yay for medical science indeed! And yay for the people smart enough to write about it so well! Good luck on your test and way to be proactive!

  11. You’re a very brave and strong woman, Rhonda. Thanks for sharing. This family is supporting you 100% in your decision.

  12. Wendy Niven says:

    Best of luck to you, Rhonda — and never let the medical profession belittle you or your choices.

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