17 March 2017

Family Resemblance

People often remark on the strong family resemblance between my sisters and me.  I easily used their I.D.'s to get into bars as a teen, snuck into a casino once claiming to be twins and been mistaken for them by acquaintances and old boyfriends.

It was a stab to the heart but not really a surprise when my eldest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago.  Initial biopsy tests pegged it as identical to mine. Both of ours resembled our mother's breast cancer, although the testing has gotten better in the past 15 years so we really can't tell if they were THAT close.  Double positive, yes...

A couple of years ago I was asked to be a part of a further genetic testing survey. Because I was tested for BRCA1 and 2, the testing lab was offering to look at 25 more genes that had been discovered to be linked to a myriad of other cancers. I tested negative for all the ones that were confirmed to be linked to elevated risk, and came back positive on a couple that were inconclusive. I suppose once they get the data back in from the expanded testing they'll be able to figure out if that means anything.

This week the Guv'ment proposed a law to allow employers to genetically test employees.  In the post-apocalyptic world, folks who have some of these genes will be uninsurable, and thus unemployable. (Or vice-versa.) If they are fortunate enough to be born rich, they will be able to treat the inevitable cancers that develop. If not, they will die young.

I have two other sisters. They now have three first degree relatives who have had breast cancer. It sucks to be them. One has chosen to have some genetic counseling done, while the other has chosen to not. Either way they both know they have elevated risk, which means they will either get cancer, or not. No way to know. Not much help in that.

Having had cancer once, I know I have an elevated risk as well. Whether it's recurrence or a whole different new type of cancer, I have a bigger chance of getting cancer than most people. This used to keep me up at night, but not so much anymore. Agonizing over whether eating bacon or breathing pesticide or carrying my cell phone in my bra for years somehow contributed to my cancer is not just unknowable, but also detrimental to my well being. I figure as long as I can still move and balance and stretch and lift things about as well as other people who are my age, I'm doing ok. It gives me some peace of mind. My sisters can all move and balance and stretch and lift things about as well as I can, and that's going to have to do for them too. But it's hard to forget the family resemblance.