Today was the long awaited genetic counseling appointment. It was via teleconference. It was a long phone call with a lot of information with good and bad news. It is now several hours later and I am feeling overwhelmed. (Ignore the links unless you want to know precisely what I am talking about.)
First, the ovarian cancer that killed my mom was not genetic. That is to say that it is not the same ovarian cancer that takes out generations of women. Gilda Radner is an example of this type of cancer. Her grandmother, an aunt, a cousin and herself died from this type of mutation. (There are a lot of fancy words here that I am just wrapping my own brain around so I will try to keep it simple.) Gilda Radner and the women in her family would have been born with the mutation and the chances of getting it are, in some cases, close to 100%. This is the same cancer that Angelina Jolie is trying to prevent.
Thank god I do not have that.
Because my mom had ovarian cancer I am at a greater risk than the general population. If you are female your chances are about 1%. Mine are about 7%. The genetic counselor thinks I might want to consider have a radical hysterectomy instead of a partial hysterectomy. That means I will have my ovaries removed and will instantly go into menopause. So now I have to decide. My chances of getting ovarian cancer are small but if I do it will very likely be fatal. Most women die within 5 years of diagnosis. It is a very aggressive cancer. I sat by my mom as ovarian cancer slithered its way through her body and eventually closed off her stomach so she could not even swallow her own saliva. If you knew today that there was a 7% chance that you would get hit by a bus would you plan your day differently?
I am hesitant for many reasons. Like I said, instant menopause. That will mean being on hormones, weight gain, possible depression (ha!), sexual health problems…. It is not a surgery to be taken lightly. Of course I have already laid aside the issues of having children. I will gladly wait for grandbabies! But maybe I am being too concerned and should just live my life on the 93% chance that I won’t get it.
I do not need to make a decision today but I do have to make one. You all have been my sounding board and I would love to hear your opinions.
The second part of the phone call was about breast cancer. My grandma had it at 48 (I had previously thought it was 40.) All of her sisters had breast cancer. I will have to keep going for regular yearly mammograms and breast ultrasounds. Again, I am at a greater risk than the general population but like the ovarian cancer I was not born with the mutation. I had a breast biopsy in June and will go for another in December and will be able to make an informed decision then about whether or not I should keep the two tennis balls in tube socks.*