Six weeks ago I walked into an examination room in Woman College Hospital, my heart was pounding and my mind was racing.
“Tell me, what do you know about your family history? What do you know about BRCA 2? ”. I’ve been waiting approximately fourteen years for this question; I’ve been well versed in my answer since choosing to get tested and when Sonya, my genetic councillor asked, the words rolled off my tongue like memorized poetry.
I have my dad’s dark curly hair and I found out that’s not all.
Many years ago my dad’s sister, Shirley had breast cancer. She is close to 80 years old now healthy, vibrant, and happy. However, more than a decade ago, her daughter, my cousin Donna, with that same dark curly hair was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She was a young mother, who left behind a husband and a beautiful daughter when she lost her battle with breast cancer prior to her 40th birthday.
Some time later, Shirley reported to my two sisters and me that there was a genetic test that we could take that would tell us if we had the gene mutation that breast cancer marker. At that time in the U.S. it seemed risky to be labeled with a preexisting condition by the insurance company so I brushed it off for that reason. It just didn’t seem like a good idea.
Then two summers ago I met my dear friend Bonnie. As I got to know her she talked about her precious daughter, Holly who had passed away. When I asked what had happened to her daughter, the story she told me reminded me of Shirley and Donna. It sent off bells and whistles in my brain. It was a wake up call, for you see, I too have a precious daughter, Molly.
Today is my daughter’s fourth birthday. She is smart, creative, independent, and determined and reminds me of my mom. In a month, my son will turn two. He is funny, energetic, loving, and loud. He also reminds me of my mom. They fill my life with love and laughter and I couldn’t imagine my world without them.
My son completes our little family of four. He completes the family my husband and I decided to build and nurture together. The family we built, in part, around my fear of cancer. A fear that has so much power over me that I let it influence when we would have kids, how many kids we would have, and how I decided to nurture them.
According to the researchers at Amsterdam’s VU University Cancer Research Centre, the answer is yes. The research team, lead by Professor Tom Würdinger have, in fact, developed a technique that can detect cancer in the early stages using a single drop of blood.
The researchers discovered that platelets (colorless blood cells that help blood clot) from cancer patients contain RNA (copies of parts of the DNA) of the tumour.
In less than a week, I’ll take the first real step into a world I’ve been immersed in for, what feels like, my whole life.
Breast cancer has been a major part of my life for over twenty years. I was six years old when my mother had sat my brother and I down on our living room couch, as she told us our Aunt Michelle was “sick”. It seemed like breast cancer was the center of every adult conversation in our home, with terms like ‘tumour’ and ‘chemo’ taking center stage.
Six years after ‘Breast Cancer’ had become part of my vocabulary, my mother sat with my brother and I in that same living room, and broke the news she was diagnosed and that surgery and chemotherapy were next on our family agenda.