It’s been a year.
It’s been a year since I found out my genetic test results were wrong - one long, gut-wrenching, breath-taking, heart-pounding, life-changing year.
One year ago, in October 2018, I got a call that sent my changed my life forever.
You see, I was told when I was 22 that I inherited the BRCA1 gene mutation. To prevent an extremely likely breast cancer (as well as ovarian cancer) diagnosis at a very young age, I chose to have a double prophylactic mastectomy at the age of 23. I refused to succumb to the wrath of cancer like the countless women in my family had before me.
But then, ten years later, I received both a glimmer of hope and a punch to the gut. After undergoing a second round of genetic testing, I was told by a genetic counselor that I was BRCA1 negative. My initial test results were wrong.
And thus began a year.
It’s been a year filled with anxiety, with anger, with confusion on a level I didn’t know existed. Justified, would be how some would describe this reaction. The injustice I endured with unfathomable. What was not fair was my projection of these emotions on others. Sadly, the ones I loved most felt my reaction to these emotions. They stuck by me and, for that, I am grateful.
It’s been a year that broke my spirit. Undoubtedly, my soul was crushed. Being a previvor was my identity. I had felt so empowered to make the decision to have a mastectomy. It gave me strength. It gave me confidence. Was I no longer a previvor, I couldn’t help but wonder. Many times throughout this past year I felt nothing but defeat. When I would return home from work, I would draw the blinds, crawl into bed and watch a movie with my kids snuggled close. They didn’t know the pain I was feeling or the confusion I was suffering. They knew Mom wanted to be close. But what they didn’t know was that Mom needed to be close.
It’s been a year that taught me the world can break you. It can shatter you. And it can happen in the blink of an eye. Everyone endures his or her own tragedies – such is life I suppose – and this was mine. My world crashed around me and I was left paralyzed with shock.
It’s been a year that challenged me beyond belief. Sometimes, just getting out of bed in the morning was a challenge. Parenting three young children was a challenge. Being a dedicated employee to the company I worked for was a challenge. Getting answers to how this mistake happened was a challenge. Not losing my shit amongst the confusion and frustration was…you guessed it…a challenge. And they were not challenges I always won. But, at the same time, this year was a challenge I fought with all my heart. It was a challenge I knew I couldn’t back down to.
It’s been a year that defined me. I learned more about myself this year than in my first 32 years on this planet, combined. Yes, I learned my genetic results…three times, in fact. But, in a way, I learned more about myself than that. I learned that I’m a fighter. I learned that I can do hard things – really, really hard things. I learned that, given the opportunity to hold hatred in my heart, I won’t. It’s too exhausting and, quite frankly, it’s not worth the detriment to myself.
It’s been a year of relying on my husband, my sisters, and my friends for strength. This experience left me emotionally and physically weak. The heartache and stress weighed on me and I simply couldn’t have endured it alone. I needed them to be a shoulder to cry on, to get dinner on the table, and to reassure me that I may be cracked, but I wasn’t broken.
It’s been a year of the lowest lows.
And, yet, the highest highs.
It’s been a year of telling my story. And telling it again, and again. I told my story to my co-workers. I told my story to perfect strangers. Hell, I went on the news and shared my story. I was even offered a chance to share my story on the radio. (I declined. I just don’t have the voice for radio). It gave me the confidence to tell my story to help others. And I truly believe I helped others. The people who responded came from all around the country and they all came with stories of their own. Together, we healed.
It’s been a year that included being a guest on the TODAY show. The TODAY Show. The one in New York City, taped live every day. That TODAY Show. NBC flew my sisters and I out there, they put us up in a hotel, they even did our makeup. For a minute, we were rubbing elbows with the stars and it was, hands down, the wildest experience of my life.
It’s been a year of getting published as a writer. Telling my story led to my greatest accomplishment in life and gaining a title I could have only dreamed of having – published author. I was able to channel the injustice I felt into words. And the Huffington Post published those words. My words! A measly Marketing Manager from middle America had an article published on a website next to Khloe Kardashian.
It’s been a year that I ran a marathon - in less than four hours, nonetheless. Quite the feat given my prior marathon time was just shy of six hours. The anxiety I felt from finding out my genetic test results were wrong weighed heavy on me. Running was a healthy mechanism for me to relieve this anxiety. It was relaxing me for – mentally, anyway. Every run gave me the clarity and perspective I so greatly needed.
It’s been a year that I found my tribe. The people who get it. The people who supported me when, frankly, I couldn’t reciprocate the support – not at the time at least. The people who brought me light during my darkest hour. The people who carried me through the year – emotionally, mentally, and one time physically. These people are my tribe.
It’s been a year that built my confidence, that taught me I can do anything. Parents say this, teachers say this, we all say this. But, its turns out, it’s actually true. I didn’t think I could pull myself back together. I didn’t think I would ever get through this. But I did, and I think I came out a little better in the end.
The highs have been high. And, the lows, they were deep.
But some days were neither high nor low. They were, in a way, void of emotion. They were lost, sadly, to the anxiety, to the frustration, to the confusion. They were the days spent searching for answers that never came. They were the days trying to find acceptance while still being in a bit of denial. They were the days that changed how I view that world - not necessarily for the better or worse – just differently. They were the days I spent reflecting on my decisions of the past and dreaming about the opportunities of the future.
It’s been a year of learning and the most important thing I learned is this: More good lies ahead in our lives than bad. And, yes, there will be bad. That’s inevitable. But with the bad comes the good. And it won’t just be good - it will great.