For a time, I abandoned looking up any information about BRCA, preventative mastectomies, oopherectomies, or reading any other blogs related to all of this mess. For a good few months, I was focused on running, researched electrolyte replacement, tapering, training schedules, and even bought myself a fancy “foam roller” to help me kneed out my IT band.
After the June 1/2 marathon was over, I was consumed by work. I was on-boarding a new staff, getting ready for the school year and for the return of my students, and found some time to continue running.
As the mastectomy date and process grew near, I began to feel the hunger for reading BRCA blogs and information again. Now, the difference between writing by BRCA pre-vivors and those Muggle Others (aka non-BRCA folks) is the subtle language. I’ve noticed that most of the Muggles use the adjective “faulty” to describe the gene that is floating around in every cell of my body.
Now, call me egotistic, but I think there is very little that is “faulty” with the way I was made. Sure, I’d rather have skinnier thighs, be taller than 5’3″, and have wavy hair, but I never found myself “faulty.” Despite (or because of) my BRCA gene and my VHL mutation (a whole other genetic condition that, frankly, I’ll deal with AFTER my mastectomy is done), I think I’m pretty damn awesome. I’m strong. I’m brave. I’m honest. I’m compassionate. I’m a darn good mom and a wife. And, I’m the coolest aunt and sister around (ahem ahem, no comments from the peanut gallery here, thank you).
Most days, I know that I make even a small, tiny difference in this world — whether it’s in the lives of my children, my family, my students, co-workers, friends, or cyber-pals or the stranger on the street. Whether it’s a program I’ve created, a cause I’ve supported, or a piece of a lesson I’ve passed on. My co-worker, Jacqueline, said today, “What would you do today if you knew you couldn’t fail?” I’ve tried to approach my life – each day – with this mentality.
After I delivered my son, my doctor said to me, “So, you’re done having kids, right? You’re not going to pass on the BRCA gene or the VHL mutation to any other people, right?” I’m pretty sure I said, “No, I’m not,” but really I wanted to scream “F-U!” After all, what does that comment say about MY life, about the lives of my kids who have yet to be tested for BRCA? What does that comment say about the meaning of the work I’ve done, the life I’ve led, and the future of my path?
There are some things we fight against; there are some things we just accept.
Some of you may have known that prior to MB4M, I was a “race and diversity” blogger. I gave it up to focus on this journey, but I’m always so deeply affected by issues of inclusion, in general, in our world. These past few weeks have been so troubling as we’ve witnessed young people take their own lives in desperation from being teased, bullied, harassed, and tormented for being who they are — genetically. (yes, there are some who will disagree here about the genetics vs choice; let me be clear, I’m not interested in engaging in a debate here. That’s why I stopped “diversity” blogging. For me, I believe we are all made in God’s likeness. And, to me, God loves ALL that God has created. Yes, this is coming from a very strong and devoted Catholic.) These tragedies, and the many more untold stories of people who are made to feel less than perfect — who have been told they are “faulty” — have really hit home for me.
So much emotional struggle is about balancing fighting/overcoming with just accepting. I have to accept that, because of how I was born, I am worthy. I am worth living. I am worth raising a family. I am worth reproducing and having kids without judgment. I am worth undergoing major surgery to live. I am worth the pain. I am worth the struggle. I am worth money it will take to remove, and reconstruct, my breasts. I am worth the medical leave, the recovery, and the bed rest.
In the past few weeks, as a result of my quick blog about “helping”, so many people have responded. And, yes, it feels terribly uncomfortable. Even when I told Jorge about the gifts people have sent or the plans people have made to cook meals, the offers to help with housework and groceries, and a newly discovered “Bowling Fundraiser!”, I felt terribly uncomfortable. And, so did Jorge. “Liza, this just feels so weird. We have so many privileges that others don’t have, we aren’t worth this.”
“I know, Jorge. I have to tell myself that this is what others want to do. This is how others feel they can be helpful and supportive. If we had friends in this situation, we’d do something, too, even if they did protest. Right?”
So, we have to accept that this will feel uncomfortable for us. And, we know we’d do the same right back. Thank you to those who have continued to pray for my family, for our strength and healing. Thank you to those who have sent small gifts or are planning ways to help. We appreciate it all — even if it feels so out of our comfort zone.
I realize, part of getting better is just accepting it.
Peace, love, faulty genes and all,