One of the most point-blank questions someone asked me was: "What are the downfalls of testing?"
I stared at the message for a while. I had tried for a year at that point to think positive, see the silver lining, etc. But it was a valid question.
And I tried to answer it honestly for her and for myself.
The first thing I told her was that the downsides really depend on your personality. Like I said, I saw mostly positives, but I've watched plenty of other women go through a very emotionally distressed period. True depression, why me periods, guilt from thinking they passed this along to children, shame in wanting to have their own children someday.
As much as this mutation has a physical impact in the screenings, the cancers it enables, it's a mindgame every other day of the year. And my mindgames are easier than some. My heart hurts for the young women who not only face their fears of cancer and death along with their losses of mothers, grandmothers, fathers and brothers, but that have this weighing on their love lives. their childbearing years.
So I told her I was content with my personal decision to wait until I was 30 and had two children before pursuing my testing. But I'm not everyone.
Another hard question I was recently asked, point-blank, was, "Are you more scared now that you know?"
That one is much easier to answer. No.
Other women, those without cancers in their lives, may be more scared once they know (yet many of them do not find out until they are the first victims of the mutations, so there are other fears to be handled). But those of us that have watched women in our lives suffer through discovery, diagnosis, treatment, metastases and, ultimately, death, lived in with that fear in the backs of our minds well before knowing for sure that we were carriers.
I had my first scare and, therefore, mammogram as a freshman in college. I always had to have the lowest dose of birth control for fear of triggering some unknown. Now it's known.
Now I have the backing to very quickly have my concerns addressed. I have a team that takes my calls and gets me in for screenings. I get regular screenings. I might still be taken by surprise someday, but I know it will be caught earlier, that I at least have a chance to catch it before it catches me.
I would never say this journey is easy. Hopefully I can say it's well worth it when I'm officially on the other side for decades to come.