My whys

Right now, there are thousands of women deciding to take the leap to be tested for genetic mutations that they believe have affected their lives. There is another group of women who think they've been randomly selected to suffer through cancer. There's one more group who maybe took a spit test out of curiosity or "For fun" or for genealogical purposes.

We all had our reasons, our whys, for taking a genetic test. And we all have reasons for making the decisions we make after we find out we do or don't have a light that's about to go out.

My why I never met: My grandmother, Hilda, died from breast cancer when my dad was just 14. I never knew her but she raised five children and my grandfather was never the same without her. I've always known her and felt her presence in a strange way. She was the loose string holding my family to our Jewish heritage.I'm no different. I have four whys that guard me and pushed me to take that test and I have more than four that give me the strength to be proactive about my results.

That is, through the why of my formative years, my Aunt Lucy. She was a forceful woman who served as my other mother, being my dad's closest sister who had a big hand in his life growing up. Aunt Lucy kept those five siblings together. She hosted Passover and Hannukah, took us to temple for Purim and had my cousins bar and bat mitzvahed. She got sick when I was a teenager. With ovarian cancer. The discovery of BRCA was brand new and she had considered the test. But it was so new that insurance companies could drop you if you tested positive. So she didn't. I heard later that she asked her doctors what they would have done if they knew she was a carrier. They would have done a full hysterectomy, something that could have theoretically saved her life.

My other two whys have been covered before: my mother in law and best friend. They both underwent double mastectomies. They both dealt with menopause before their time. The why they give me is the strength to know I can do that, too.

Then there are my daily whys: my girls, my husband, my family and friends. I want to be here longer than the other women in my family. I want to see my girls graduate, get married and have their own kids. I want to grow old with my husband and be awesome grandparents together. I want to go on 50th birthday trips to Vegas with my best girl friends.

But I have a secret fear in going through with my prophylactic surgeries.

I am afraid my daily whys won't have those guardian whys to push them, to spark that desire and need to know if they are mutants, too.

I've discussed that watching my aunt, mother in law and best friend endure chemo made me acutely aware of both my own risks and pretty determined to take preventative action if given the option.

But what if this progress we've made, this opportunity I have, gives my girls a false sense of security? What if the lack of hardship, sickness and treatment in myself and my generation allows them to grow up unscathed?

What if they don't want to know? If they don't have the same fears I've known growing up? I've said before that I didn't realize families existed where they did not experience cancer. We could now be that family.

My oldest daughter is only 3, my baby only 1. They'll be just a bit older when I undergo my surgeries, but it's unlikely they'll remember. I can only hope I can continue to tell them about my amazing whys and hope this blog and my fellow BRCA mutants are enough to teach my daughters our history. They will make their own decisions when they're old enough and I plan to be here to guide them through it.

I hope I am enough why for them.