“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” Linda Wooten
I look at Mackenzie and love the fact that she has my eyes, my love for the arts and all things Michael Jackson. I also look at Mackenzie in fear that she has a 50/50 chance of carrying the gene that could potentially put her life at risk and change her journey forever.
As Cancer fighters we speak a lot of the disease and not a lot of the mutation that caused the disease. Being BRCA positive and having a daughter brings a whole other level of fear to the word Cancer. At age 18 it is suggested that Mackenzie be tested for BRCA and if she is positive, she will have to make a decision that could impact her ability to have a family. Any mother understands all too well the concept of “mommy-guilt”, but knowing that you may have passed along a gene that could keep your daughter from having children of her own, is almost too much to wrap your head around. It is this never ending guilt that sucker punches me in the gut.
In a perfect world we could put our children in a bubble and never let anyone or anything hurt them. When I was first diagnosed, Mackenzie was a year old and while I realized the day would come that she would need to be tested, time was on my side. Two weeks ago, Mackenzie turned 12, only 6 years away from her suggested test. Yesterday, Mackenzie started showing signs that she is hitting puberty and all I could think was “Boobs! She is going to grow boobs! Why does she have to have boobs?!?”
Unfortunately, it isn’t just about boobs. Even if Mackenzie is BRCA negative, she will still have to be closely monitored for Cancer for the rest of her life. Because I developed cancer at such a young age, Mackenzie’s odds of also developing cancer are far better than average. This scares the crap out of me.
I am scared of not living to see her 18th birthday, and of not being around to help support and guide her with my experience in life and with Cancer. The second, all too real fear, is making it to her 18th birthday and having to witness all of the decisions that she will have to make because of me. Mountain of mommy-guilt party of 1! With that being said, if I knew I was BRCA positive before I got pregnant with Mackenzie, I still would have had her. I would not have missed out on loving her, watching her grow or seeing the amazing things that she is accomplishing.
I have written and rewritten this article, over and over, struggling to find the right words to explain the guilt and fear I am feeling for my daughter. As parents our biggest goal is to raise happy and healthy, amazing human beings and we wish for them to be successful to become a doctor or even the President of the United States. I too wish for success and financial security for Mackenzie, but greater than that, my wish is that she isn’t BRCA positive. If I could change one thing, it would be that Mackenzie didn’t have to face a continued life of worry that she too will develop Cancer. Reality is that I cannot change Mackenzie’s chances for Cancer any more than I could have changed my own. I can, however, educate Mackenzie on how best to care for herself, her body and her future family that I so hope she gets to have. I can also educate Mackenzie on how to perform self checks on what will soon become her newly formed breasts and how she can be tuned into her body to recognize signs or symptoms that something may not be right.
Having a little girl is often associated with fairy tales, ponies, princesses and the corresponding Prince Charming. Cancer is a dragon in our fairytale, and although we may not yet be able to slay that dragon, we fight daily wearing our armor of love, laughter and open honesty.