Today, I borrow from one of my favorite 70’s bands, The Eagles. I can hear Glenn Frey crooning now.
Several weeks ago, I chose to undergo genetic testing to see if I had any genetic mutations that would predispose me to further cancer. I did not make that decision lightly and I shared my choice with only two people outside my immediate family. My thinking was that if I was a “mutant” (and my friend CB will get my humor here), then I wanted to know so I could mentally prep myself for the future.
Prior to my visit, my husband wanted to know why I would want to know if I did have a genetic predisposition to cancer. His rationale was, “Would it make a difference?” Mine was, “Yes it will!” So at the end of March, I trudged down to the OPCC (Outpatient Cancer Care) where I’d received my chemo and spent a couple of quality hours having my family history dissected. It was surreal for me. My mom had gone with me to fill in some of the gaps. She thoroughly enjoyed learning about all the genetic mutations. I, on the other hand, was terrified when I saw how many mutations resulted in ovarian cancer. That’s the difference between the haves and the have nots. Those that have cancer and are in remission know the scary netherworld they have lived in and will do just about anything to not go back. The have nots haven’t had cancer and it’s a lot like a science lesson that would inspire Gregor Mendel. It’s fascinating.
Unfortunately, waiting really is the hardest part (kudos to Tom Petty here). My mood was not the best in the days after the testing. I had decided that if I had been BRCA (breast cancer gene) positive that I would go the Angelina Jolie route and embrace my inner flat chested self (I’m sure my loving husband would have objected). If I had tested positive for Lynch Syndrome (which predisposes patients to both ovarian and colon cancer), I was mentally prepping myself for annual colonoscopies (and this was NOT a pretty mental image). Of course, I also struggled with how our insurance would treat me after paying for this. Well, hubby’s employer is still covering spouses – at least for the next year. I was grumpy, scared and mad.
Of course, all my worrying was for naught, which is not really all that surprising. Only 12-15% of those with ovarian cancer actually have a genetic mutation. Those might seem like pretty low odds, except that a woman’s odds for getting ovarian cancer are fairly low anyway (about 2% over her lifetime). Given my previous experience playing the odds, I wasn’t feeling all that confident. I mean, what are the chances that a premenopausal woman would not only get ovarian cancer, but also throw a blood clot and develop a pulmonary embolism while in the recovery room? They are astronomical so I wasn’t feeling all that sure about my chances of not having a mutation.
Once I found out I was “normal,” relatively speaking, I was relieved. I was enveloped in a peaceful, easy feeling. My mood immediately lightened. My ability to deal with stress improved dramatically. The boys got a calmer mom. And for the first time since August 23, 2012 I actually felt like I had some control over things. I know that control is an illusion. We think we have control over things, but all we can do is make a plan and hope that everyone else cooperates.
It was the first time that I felt like God had given me a chance to hold the reins. Funny thing was that I didn’t want the reins any longer. I hadn’t held them in so long that holding onto them just didn’t seem to be that important any longer. I had found that elusive “new normal” that so many survivors talk about. Cancer doesn’t define me any longer. I am so much more than an ovarian cancer survivor. I used to wear my survivor badge first and foremost. Now I’ve moved it further down my sash. My faith in God badge is first, the my wife and mom badges come next. I wear the survivor badge right next to my homeschooler badge. Maybe it’s because my hair has completely grown out (gray and all) and it’s now longer than its been in over 10 years. Maybe it’s because I’m accepting those compression stockings as part of my wardrobe. Maybe it’s because I’ve accepted neuropathy, a bit of bone pain when it rains, chemo brain and a hernia as part of life. Maybe it’s because I now prefer to have blood drawn from my port in my chest rather than my arm veins (which are awful from the chemo).
Honestly, I know that it’s because of all the people who’ve prayed for me. I know it’s because I have friends who have my back and refuse to let me wallow for too long. It’s because I’ve been blessed with a sports fanatic and a cuddle bug for sons who say they prefer me the way I am right now because I’m here. I think it’s mostly because I’ve prayed, begged and pleaded for God to tell me what I’m supposed to get from this experience. What’s to come out of it. Did I go through this for nothing?
No, I didn’t. I think the lesson I learned was that what we think is so important, what must be controlled, what we feel has to be done RIGHT NOW, is usually because of our own self-imposed restrictions. Sure, there are always things that need to be done and some are time critical. But for the most part, you just lay out a plan for the day and try to accomplish what you can. If I can scratch two things off my to-do list every day, I’m doing pretty good and I try not to sweat the rest. I still work under deadlines for clients, but most of them are good about extending time to get a quality piece. And for those that don’t want to extend a deadline, they are just missing out on one fine article.
The lesson I’m taking away, for today anyway, is that I needed a peaceful, easy feeling and that’s all I really need.