Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It is a lustrous transition metal with a silver color, low density and high strength. It is highly resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia and chlorine. (Wikipedia)
Keeping them in my body helps to regulate menstruation, keep my body feeling its age, and helps me keep my bones strong. They also give me a 60% chance of developing — and possibly dying — of ovarian cancer.
My sister M has gone first in everything. First to drive a car, to play in an orchestra, to go to college, get her PhD.
She was also the first to get cancer.
And, by the time you read this, she will have been the first in our family to have her oopherectomy, removal of her ovaries.
There are many ways in which I have gone first, too. First to get married. First to have a kid. First to buy a house. But, having my ovaries out? I wasn’t going first.
Like titanium, my sister has had to develop a strength beyond life. With this high strength has come resiliency — she was pregnant when she crossed the stage to graduate with her doctorate. And, shortly after she gave birth, she was diagnosed with a advanced stage breast cancer. M and her son had to move 3,000 miles away from her husband in order to access treatment and support, and those months and years tested relationships, health, and emotions. Her cancer diagnosis was also the catalyst for our family discovering we were BRCA+. Her cancer started the genetic testing, the months of surveillance, and eventually the removal of my own breasts and this journey.
Hair loss. Breast loss. Reconstructive surgery. She did it all first.
And, today, she is going first again. With the removal of her ovaries — and, soon, my own, too — she will reduce her risk of ovarian cancer from 60% to less than 1%. As every person’s reaction is different, we can expect anything from hot flashes, sleepless nights, bone density loss, extreme mood swings … or nothing. It could be as easy as nothing at all.
But, we all know that removing our ovaries actually gives us something much more. It gives us peace of mind. It gives us that piece of our minds that has spent the past six years focused on every pain, twinge, or cramp. We gain back a piece of our minds that has been consumed with percentages, survival rates, chances of developing a nearly undetectable cancer, or the knowledge that we could be healthy one day and fighting for our lives the next.
It will bring us peace.
As my sister spoke with family members the night before her surgery, her young son — the one who kept her warm when her body was chilled by chemotherapy — covered his ears. “I don’t want to hear about my mom’s surgery. I’m afraid she is going to die.”
We hugged him. Reassured him. And told him, “We are doing this so that she doesn’t.”
Titanium. Strong, resilient.
Peace, love, and “Hey you won’t have to deal with your period anymore” says my 10-year old,