Wednesday, August 7, 2013

NEGATIVE: No Clinically Significant Variants Detected

The paper came with the words: NEGATIVE: No Clinically Significant Variants Detected.

And my entire body let out the breath it had been holding for nearly four weeks.

The intense stare down and verbal warning from the genetic counselor came with “We don’t know everything yet. You must be vigilant. Based on your history, you still have significant inherited risk.”

And my entire body screamed, “Get me the hell outta here so I can cry without abandon. And then celebrate in similar fashion.”

And I did.

If I already have a breast cancer diagnosis, why did I subject myself to a month of anxiety ridden waiting?  Two reasons.

My daughter and my son.

Genetic testing for breast cancer is nascent but there are two genes which consistently, when found to have mutation, can indicate significant additional risk of developing breast cancer: BRCA1 and BRCA 2.

A positive result would not only have indicated a risk five times higher than average for developing breast cancer* and an increased risk for developing a variety of other cancers (that I mentioned in the last post) but also, most ominously, the terror and guilt knowing that I may have passed a similar risk onto them.

A positive result would have meant removing the other breast. And potentially another surgery to remove my ovaries. But more surgery and increased diligence pale in comparison to the weight of knowing you may be walking a path that you have unknowingly created for your child. And now I don’t need to worry about that for a while.

In fact, as I told my husband, through happy tears of relief on the drive home, “So, if they’ve got any genetic abnormalities, it’s on you!”

He glanced over and we both laughed because my husband appears to be composed of illness-proof shark DNA and has been to the doctor exactly three times in the almost 20 years of our relationship.

There are still questions and there may be a few more surgeries but, for now, I’m intent on celebrating what feels like a victory because, in layman’s terms, I am not a ticking time bomb of cancer risk.

Not that anyone can detect at this point.