Cheese, BRCA 1 & 2, and #healthiswealth.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “oh, so you’re doing the Angelina Jolie thing?”, I would have ten dollars. Maybe. And sure, in the sense that we both had bilateral mastectomies, they would be right. But there is quite a difference between Tomb Raider and I- she carries a BRCA 1 mutation and I don’t. Because she has a gene mutation, she was told that she had about an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Mrs. Smith opted to pursue something call a prophylactic mastectomy (sometimes referred to as a preventative mastectomy), which seems to have been a wonderful option. She also opted for reconstruction, but I don’t have time to blather about that.

When I was diagnosed, a myriad of appointments were scheduled for me, and speaking to a genetic counselor was one of the first things I did. After watching my mom survive breast cancer, and then watching my grandmother do it eleven years later, I figured I should probably get some testing done. When I brought it up to my GP, she stated that I could do it but that I “was young and it was expensive”. Both are true, of course. My mother had just done her own testing, only for BRCA 1 & 2, which both came back clean (sans mutation), and my grandmother was old enough that testing wasn’t really seen as a helpful option.

So my genetic counselor and I mapped out my family (to the best of our ability because I don’t know shit about my bio-dad’s family) and opted to test the eight major genes that are considered high risk for cancer development. I figured that shit would come back with mutations across the board because…duh…it’s me. The test results took forever to be analyzed and it took me even longer to get in for the results, so in that time I had already had my surgery, had my drains removed (for the first time), etc. Justin and I both went into the appointment with trepidation, both of us assuming that things were going to be terrible- we wouldn’t be able to have children because I would just pass on a bunch of shitty shit to them…

Lo, and behold!

Not a single mutation. Nothing that explained why my body wanted to murder me slowly. The mix of disbelief and surprise was fleeting when reminded of the actual statistics of breast cancer. So I am not genetically mutated, but I still have cancer. And my mom isn’t genetically mutated, but she still had cancer. Granted, these tests aren’t 100% guaranteed, but come on, science and shit- they’re right. We must just be those fluke humans that develop cancer due to stress. I think that’s why it’s important to tell my story. So many people (read: women) have said to me “but you’re so young and healthy!”. First off- thank you. I am young and I am healthy. And then they follow that up with “I should get checked out”, to which I reply emphatically “YES, YOU SHOULD!”.

Here’s the thing: I AM young and I AM healthy. Sure, I smoked for five years. Yes, I ate meat. Yes, I did drugs. Yes, I engaged in risky behaviors because that’s just the natural course of life for a lot of young women in America. But I am a vegetarian, I engage in regular physical activity, and I live my life as exuberantly and as safely as I can. That “but you’re so healthy” is a real double-edged sword for me. I often feel like women are subconsciously judged for their life choices when they’re diagnosed. I certainly have felt that. But I also get the sense of disbelief that this could happen to a young woman. So really, dial it back, world. For those of us who don’t have a gene mutation, there is no cause and there is no cure.

Sure, sure. I could go vegan. I could go sugar-free. I could do a lot of things that I’m not doing to help/prevent/kill my joy. The beloved and I have talked about going sugar-free, but it sounds like a lot of work and we’re already incredibly stressed and anxious as it is. My mother reminds me about giving up dairy products because of my diagnosis. There is estrogen in cheese, she says. I will lower my risk of recurrence, she says. But you will pry this Brie from my cold, dead hands!

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This brings me to the #healthiswealth portion of my rant. Guess what? No, it fucking isn’t. It doesn’t matter how many kale and avocado shakes you make, your chances of getting cancer are still the same. You can buy one of those horrid Juicero things and squeeze your sustenance out of a plastic garbage bag for $400 a day and still get cancer. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, diseases happen to young people, and evil people live forever. My point is enjoy life responsibly, be aware of your body, and do your research.

Women don’t do anything to deserve breast cancer, but it happens.

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Update time!

My drains were removed on Monday due to them trying to physically escape from my chest cavity. Who knew that my body wouldn’t love foreign objects sewn into it?! This means that I am now cleared for all of the prerequisites for chemotherapy, and my port placement surgery is scheduled for this coming week. Chemo commences on June 1st and I will have more updates on that treatment soon. It’s a bit to digest at the moment, but isn’t all of life?

Titles are Overrated

Hello, and welcome to Obesity and Malaise- a blog I started because I finally have feelings again. Some of you may remember my previous blog, Don’t Take Black Coffee for Granted or whatever it was, but this will be nothing like that. Mostly because I live in the Midwest now, and not some fantasy land that most people only dream about visiting. But it will also be different in the sense that I really have no direction. I just know that I have a lot to say. Normally, my preferred method of dealing with feelings is shoving them deep down inside me and pretending they don’t exist (not unlike the compost bin when I’m too lazy to take it out). My second preferred method is throwing on some Elliott Smith and knocking back a bottle of wine (or two) just to test fate. So that part hasn’t changed, I guess… Anyway, let’s do this thing.

Perhaps it would be pertinent to go over the thought behind the title of this “blog”. Typical of myself, I was drinking wine and shit-posting with friends on the internet, when a friend (sorry sphygs) described something in his home state of Ohio with the term ‘obesity and malaise’. It made me laugh hard enough that I immediately ran over to WordPress and registered a new blog under the name. I still had nothing to write about, though, and so here it sat.

It sat here until this morning, when something on a dumb social media website pushed me over my emotional edge. I found myself sitting in the kitchen thinking “I’m going to claw my fucking brains out if I don’t get these feelings out of my head.” It was then that I realized my heart and my brain had more in common with the title of this blog than I originally thought. To break it down:

Obesity (n): the condition of being fat or grossly overweight.

Malaise (n): a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify.

I’m a caretaker. I always have been. I have a big heart and a lot to give, often at the expense of my own happiness or sanity. It makes me happy to help, though, so I do. Therefore, I like to think that I have a big (obese? fat? phat?) heart at times. It also means that I am often expected to give and give and give without taking time for myself. Therein lies the problem- I don’t take care of myself as I should. I ignore things until things hurt me so much that I vomit them into a blog post.

As for the malaise? Well, some of you know me and what I’ve been dealing with during this last year. Though I definitely knew the source of my discomfort and uneasiness, it still works (because I say it does, damnit). The feeling didn’t end when I left though. Starting my life over, opening up my heart again, and having to think about myself has all been incredibly difficult. Because I am who I am, I’m still vulnerable to feeling things very intensely, even though I make a conscious effort to do the opposite. I may look like I’m fine on the outside, but my self-worth is at an all-time low.

And that’s fine.

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And so, I suppose, this is what this blog might be about. We’re going to have some frank conversations about feels. Because when 13 years of on-again, off-again therapy just gives you a split personality disorder, it’s best to open that shit up to the internet. Because my heart is a sad spot in Ohio right now.

It’s fine.

Totally fine.