This is Vuokko's story: My grandmother died in 1993 most likely of ovarian cancer. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 which relapsed and was diagnosed again January 2015. Mom died the same August. We noticed that at least 3 generations of women in my family has died either from OC or BC.
Most likely reason for my mom and gran’s cancers was BRCA2, which runs in the genes. BRCA2 increases BC probability in women to 40-70% and OC to 10-20%. Heidi Sohlberg (former Miss Finland) was diagnosed with BC and she carries the same gene. Only way to avoid BC and OC are operations where your ovaries and breast tissues are taken out. BC probability reduces to less than 5% after the operation and OC to almost 0%.
I found out about my BRCA2 in July 2013. It stilled me. I wasn't able to talk about it. On the other hand, nobody else knew how to react to it either. In the midst of it all we were living a normal life with our one and three year old kids.
One should not get this kind of info at that point. Mother of toddlers cannot die.
It must have been quite a shock. Even though I had made a decision that I won’t cry, I did shed a tear or two. We were equally shocked with my husband. I think I missed a lot what the doctor said.
Even though I was quiet, my mind was doing somersaults. Physical memento of it all was a visit to hairdresser. I just walked into one salon a day after. I dyed my hair red. It was awful and didn’t suit me at all. Nobody said anything about it either. Probably didn’t dare to.
Coloring my hair was probably a reaction to the shadow of death that fell on me. It said more than thousand words. It’s like I was ripped into a totally new life than I had lived before.
I was facing control visits and I was going to be examined regularly. Doctors recommended operations. I wasn’t ready for it at all. And I didn’t have the mental resources for it either.
My relationship was tested also after the news. I wasn’t able to share my experience with my husband. I turned inwards and kept everything inside.
Something happened when my mom was diagnosed again. BC had spread into liver and bones and death was looming somewhere. It felt so immensely bad to give up my mom and kids’ grandmom too soon. You cannot describe the amount of grief. Luckily my mom lived a good life.
Vast fight started growing inside me. I didn’t want to die too soon. I wanted to live. And preferably without a hellish fear of death.
My process had started. A process that would lead to the biggest decision of my life that would take me to the operation table. Most famous person in the world who has gone through the same is Angelina Jolie who has BRCA1. Her and Miss Finland’s stories have been inspirational to me.
Operation table would hold my whole womanhood. Can a woman give away breasts, ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus? What is left behind? What happens to my self image? What happens to relationship? What effect does untimely menopause have?
My mind has been and still is full of immense questions. My decision to head towards operation table has brought me and my husband closer to each other. This is our thing, not just mine. Husband has attended doctor visits and is supporting me. He doesn’t want to lose his wife.
Operations are associated with fear of death. They are not minor cuts. I have always worried what happens to my family if I die. Hubby doesnt’ even want to talk about possibility of me dying.
I have been lucky to make friends with a couple of other BRCA-ladies who have gone through similar operations. Without them I would have been alone with my fears. I am stronger with them and can always rely on talking the same ”language”.
Operations are ahead of me in the spring and in autumn. I am still scared. I have to face menopause before I turn 40. Recovery will take its time and mental recovery will take even longer. Still there is huge peace with the decision.
Did I learn anything from all of this?
I learnt that life is here and now. Before I used to get upset over minor things, now I can take it easier. I want to enjoy life, my husband and my kids. Our relationship has even grown stronger amid this all. We are closer now on a deeper level.
People with negative energy do not belong in my life anymore. I want to surround myself with joy and positivity. I do not want to hide difficult things deep inside anymore. I have noticed that the harder the issue is the more important it is to share it. <3
*Thanks Vuokko for sharing your story and for the translation. <3