A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It's no surprise that I'm a wee bit tense these days. After surgery last year, when they found precancerous cells on my fallopian tube and the possibility ovarian cancer lingering over me until the second operation proved otherwise...followed by an "ambiguous MRI of my leg bone in December"--well, a girl can only endure so much waiting and wondering before she cracks.

Friends and family have noticed that I'm a little more "on edge," a little quicker to anger, more easily startled. But they don't know the extent of my anxiety, which is more like a volcano waiting to explode. On the surface, I've resumed my everyday activities. But underneath a facade of normalcy, fear is brewing and spewing. Thoughts of death hover over me--mine and everyone I care about.

As a friend pointed out, I've faced death at a much younger age than the general population. Most people don't come to terms with their mortality until late in life. I think about death all the time.

Last week, for instance, my water aerobics didn't show up for two classes, which was unlike her. The gym didn't know what had happened to her...so I envisioned some catastrophe befalling her or one of her children.

When I finally tracked her down, I discovered she had been sick, and had, indeed, called the gym--the person she had spoken to didn't pass along her message.

I think about how my mind races to the worst-case scenario whenever something is out of the ordinary. I'm waiting for the next bomb to go off.

When I shared this with a friend who is Jewish, she referred to the Hebrew expression, "L'chayim" -- to life.

She said that although it's important to be outward-focused, it's also critical to take care of ourselves. She asked how I spent my time off from work-- if I did anything fun and relaxing...if I took time for myself. She said that part of the healing process is engaging in activity that brings us joy. I needed to lighten up, loosen up and have some fun. In fact, play, darn it!

So, I've decided to volunteer at a community garden this spring. I need to spend time outdoors with things that are alive and growing. I need to connect to the beauty and wonder and richness of the world. I need to celebrate life. L'chayim.