My hands and feet locked into the Earth, hips high, shoulders pushed back, I was breathing whatever remaining vigor I had into my downward facing dog. Inhale. Don’t think about it. Exhale. Ok exhaling, this is nice. Inhale. Any minute now. Exhale. Steady Grace, steady. I started lifting my left leg off the mat for three-legged dog, squaring and aligning my hips, preparing to transition into a warrior 1 pose, when my phone rang. My inner yogi trance was quickly disrupted. Hastily scrambling off my mat, I grab my phone off the bed and turn to the kitchen to yell for my fiancé, Seth. “I think this is it honey” I stammer, as he run-walks into the room. As he wraps his arms around my waist, I answer the phone.
“Hello, this is Grace.”
“Hi Grace, it’s Talia.”
“Thanks again for being able to take this call so late in the afternoon.”
“Oh no it’s not a problem at all! The last few weeks have been so crazy, I just got back from a conference today actually, I meant to give you a call about your results before I left but I just got so busy.”
“Oh wow, yeah no worries,”
“Yeah, so, about your results. I just took a look at them, and you’re fine — negative for all breast cancer genetic mutations.”
The rest of the conversation is relatively a blur. Dr. Talia Donenberg recommended that I get tested again in around five years or so for any additional genetic mutations, as she said that research related to the genetic causes of breast cancer is rapidly growing. She insisted that given my family history I’m still at a higher risk than the general population doe breast cancer diagnosis. She thanked me once again for my patience, wished me all the best, and that was that. The call ended. Seth instantly wheeled me around in his arms and picked me up in a moment of pure bliss. “This calls for a celebration,” he exclaimed, as he propped me back on the ground and nearly scurried back into the kitchen to find a half open bottle of French red wine in the fridge. And I just stood there, unable what to say or what to think. All I could do at the moment was return back to my yoga mat and revisit my downward facing dog.
Since finding out my results last Wednesday evening, I feel a little more blessed for each passing day that I experience. Two months ago I shared with you all just how unnerving the genetic test seemed to me, and I’m incredibly thankful for the positive results. I’m a little more patient managing the everyday stresses of my life. I have a newly discovered unshakable gratitude for living in the present moment. I can breathe a little easier.
And yet, I still have this unquenchable thirst for knowing why, an insatiable desire that I know I will never satisfy. If I don’t cry the genetic mutation, then that means my mom didn’t either. Why then did my mother die from breast cancer? Why her?
A recently conducted study has postulated that around 2/3 of people that contract any form of cancer during their lifetimes are just, well, plain old unlucky. Even if they never set foot on the Vegas Strip, they got dealt a shitty hand. However, this study has been heavily criticized if not basically debunked in the widespread scientific community. If bad luck wasn’t to blame for my mom’s death, then what is?
According to the National Institute of a Environmental Health Sciences, it’s estimated that approximately 85% of all breast cancer patients are without known genetic, lifestyle or environmental factors. Now I don’t know about you, but that figure scares the hell out of me. 85%?
There’s a heavy emphasis nationwide towards channeling breast cancer donations towards breast health education, treatment services and research primarily geared towards enhancing treatment options. Consequently, we’re all taught about how our family history, medical history and lifestyle choices can increase our lifetime risk of breast cancer diagnosis. And yet, here we are, still largely unaware of some of the main causes of breast cancer. Are we not seeing the forest through the trees? Why aren’t we talking about this huge lack of research more openly? And why aren’t we funding more research and education on the environmental causes of breast cancer? Is that just too controversial nowadays? Is the 40,000 deaths annually to breast cancer not controversial enough?
I now know that it most likely wasn’t genetics that caused my mom to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to the breast cancer diagnosis my mom had essentially a perfect bill of health, barring only perhaps her struggles with becoming pregnant with me as she entered her mid-thirties. I’ll never know what caused my mom to be diagnosed so early in life, but it’s largely possible that environmental factors outside of her control are to blame.
There’s only so much rejoicing I can do after receiving the results. All I can continue to do now is continue to rally behind women that want to seek real answers, women that want to discover the truth, women that want to hold our health institutions accountable to serving us and saving our lives.
Until then, I can never just rest easy, regardless of the results from my genetic testing.