Last week The New Yorker published an article by Angelina Jolie titled "Diary of Surgery." Because I've experienced many of the things she addresses in the piece it really resonated with me.
While "Mrs. Smith" talks a lot about what carrying the BRCA gene means, she doesn't address the test itself. Like, specifically, what it involves. When I got tested for the BRCA mutation, all my doctor was told me was "Megan, I'm scheduling you a meeting with a genetic counselor to see if you're a BRCA 1 or 2 carrier" and I was like "Absolutely! Let's do that!" but on the inside I was like "um, what's that now?"
Michela Buttignol as seen in the New Yorker
In spirit of joining Angelina to raise awareness about this issue, and equally noble, awareness about my book, below is an excerpt from 99 Problems in which I get tested for the gene. It's from the chapter I creatively titled, Genetic Counseling.
A chapter and excerpt from 99 Problems but a Baby Ain't One
Today I spent the afternoon at a genetic counselor's office. Her name was Cara and she was a nice, tall, thin woman vaguely resembling Hilary Swank. Her office was small, but her candy bowl was big - overflowing with fun-size Twix bars. I took this as an open invitation to help myself.
Prior to our session, I wasn't real clear on what a genetic counselor did or why I was going. I just knew my doctor had scheduled this appointment and I had to attend. I guess though, with the world counselor in her title, I'd envisioned myself doing the majority of the talking - a very Robin Williams/Matt Damon/Good Will Hunting type of situation. I want everyone to know that is not what genetic counseling is. Genetic counseling is when Cara describes to you, in full detail, every gene, cancer, mutation, and horrific disease that I could possibly possess or develop in my life. And there's a lot. Like millions.
It was very overwhelming and very scary. My first instinct was to jump from the fourteenth floor that we were on to alleviate the suspense surrounding my eventual cause of death. Instead, I let Cara perform a blood test for the millions of genetic disorders we discussed in our session. In two to three weeks I'll know if I have the BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutations that my doctors are most concerned about. Testing positive for this would mean that I will very likely develop both ovarian and breast cancer in my lifetime. (If it haven't already.)
The BRCA gene is hereditary and would have been passed down from either my mother or father. (Rude.) If I have this, I'll want to make sure that my younger female cousins, from whichever side the gene was contracted, get tested as well. Since the gene is hereditary, if I have it, they could have it too. If I had a sister, she would need to get tested too.
I also asked Cara to test for the "crazy" gene. I'm pretty sure I have that.......
*To enjoy 99 Problems in its entirety like, Jen and Merl here, hop on over to Amazon to buy a kindle or paperback version.
*For discussion questions, book club info, reviews, and more about the book click over to the official website.
-COOL PEOPLE ONLY-