A Flower or a Weed?

18 06 2009
For gene-positive women, the ovaries are both flowers...and weeds.

For gene-positive women, the ovaries are both flowers...and weeds.

Like many three-year-olds, when the fields of early spring are blanketed in golden yellow, Theo squeals in delight. He sees dandelions as “flowers,” and often picks Mommy a bouquet.

As grown-ups, most of us think of dandelions as weeds — undesirable. We spend time, money and energy attempting to irradicate them from our lawns.

But are dandelions a weed, or are they a flower? It depends, of course, on your perspective.

The same can be said of the ovaries of a woman who carries the BRCA 1 mutation. Her positive status not only predicts an 88 percent lifetime chance of getting breast cancer, but a 44 percent lifetime chance of an ovarian cancer diagnosis.

If she views her ovaries as what God intended them to be — the first stop in a chain reaction of events that brings about the conception of a miracle, a newborn baby — then they are flowers. If she sees them as the malevolent precursor to ovarian cancer — a cancer that is not only difficult to diagnose in its early stages, but difficult to treat — then she will view them as weeds.

Either way, it’s a clear view, all the way to the horizon. But what happens when to that young woman, that BRCA 1 carrier, the dandelions are both flowers and weeds?

That’s the predicament I find myself in. As I believe John Lennon once said, life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans. And so it was for my husband, Don, and I. Our “plan” was to have two children, about two years apart.

Part A of that plan went beautifully — Theo was born in August 2005. But Part B was put on hold when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2006.

There were lots of “ifs” at that point in my life — but I am a strong believer that looking forward and making plans is the best perspective you can have when you’re in the midst of dire circumstances.

So, we looked toward the future and saw ourselves with two children. I went through in-vitro in the weeks between my double-mastectomy surgery and the first round of chemotherapy so that we could freeze embryos in case the chemo sent me into premature menopause.

I’m now a survivor — three years, three months, two weeks and one day — and you can bet I’m counting! And Don and I have decided to go for #2. If we are blessed with a second baby, fabulous. If we are not, we will move on in life, grateful for the beautiful, healthy little boy that we do have.

In the meantime, in the back of my mind, I am always aware that, as long as I have my ovaries, I am playing a game of Russian Roulette. The odds of ovarian cancer in a BRCA 1 positive woman increase dramatically as a woman moves into her mid-40s and beyond.

Though I am not there yet, I know that my risk is about 1 percent. That’s pretty low, but any risk is still a risk. A risk of cancer, a risk of leaving my beautiful little boy and loving husband behind. And that’s just plain scary.

Yet, as we’re too often reminded, everything in life carries with it some sort of risk. We get into a car and drive to the store, and we take a risk. So, we will play the odds for now, try for #2, see what happens. And, if it doesn’t happen in the next several months to a year or so, we’ll move on.

Moving on for me means going under the knife and having my ovaries removed. That’s the best way for a BRCA 1 carrier to eradicate her risk of gene-related ovarian cancer.

It means changing my perspective, of no longer viewing my ovaries as flowers, but instead, as weeds. And, like many of the decisions I must make as a BRCA 1 positive woman, it won’t be easy. But, I will summon the courage, do what needs to be done, and move on — thankful that I’m able to participate in this beautiful dance called Life.

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2 responses

20 06 2009
Jennifer Fink

You nailed it in a way that no one else has. That’s the struggle I’m going through as well — not whether or not to have another kid, ’cause that’s just crazy at this point — but the shift between “flower” and “weed.” My ovaries and breasts have served me so well for so long. I’ve been bless to conceive, carry and nurse 4 children. In many ways, I’d say my ovaries and breasts are my favorite part of me, for exactly those reasons.

But I know I need to shift and view these treasured parts of me as weeds. My only satisfaction here is knowing that they did their job first.

Still, I can’t help but wishing we could all fade off into the sunset together…

6 08 2009
dphealthcareconsulting

Great Blog! You are a credit to the cancer blogging community. I have added you to my blogroll, “Cancer Blog Links” with almost 500 other cancer blogs at http://www.beingcancer.net, a cancer networking site featuring a cancer book club, guest blogs, cancer resources and more. Please stop by and visit. If you like the site, please consider adding Being Cancer to your blogroll.
Take care, Dennis

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