TTC and BRCA

I haven’t been writing here much in the past couple of weeks, because since I’ve gotten my current clean bill of health, BRCA-related things have not been on the forefront of my mind…thankfully. It’s always there, lurking somewhere, but I’m grateful to have been able to direct my focus elsewhere and feel almost like my usual self again.

One thing that has been on my mind? Babies. Specifically, is there going to be another one in our future? Or not?

Months before I got my BRCA news, the plan was to start trying for kiddo #2 this summer. Tests, tests, and more tests delayed us by a couple of months, but my doctors have all given the green light for us to go ahead and try.  But this green light, like others, will  eventually turn yellow and then red.

Specifically, I share my doctors’ strong opinions about doing my ovary and tube removal as close to my 35th birthday as possible. That is 15 months away. It just takes a little simple arithmetic and then all I can hear is the tick tick tick of the clock. Factoring in 9.5 months of pregnancy + ideally a few months of breastfeeding (just a few because ovary removal stops milk production), and we’re left with very little wiggle room for TTC (trying to conceive for those not up with the lingo) before the clock strikes midnight.

Of course I don’t literally need my ovaries removed the day I turn 35, but given my mother’s age at the time she got sick, and the difficulties with early detection of ovarian cancer, I also don’t want to wait around too long. So while we’re not giving ourselves a hard and fast deadline for babymaking, we’ve tossed around 6 months as a rough timeframe.  So basically, if it doesn’t happen by then, we’ll reassess and consider our options.

TTC knowing my BRCA status brings so many other anxieties just beyond the big “will we or won’t we” question.  Such as:

  • What if it’s a girl, and I pass down this mutation to her.
    • What an awful first gift to get from your mother! I know there are BRCA-associated risks for men as well, but it’s much less of an issue. I feel grateful every day that our first born is a boy…and thankful that my spouse’s family seems to produce boys upon boys upon boys. Sometimes I do catch myself wishing for a baby girl (that was always my vision…a boy and a girl)…but then the word cancer follows swiftly behind in my mind.
  • Breast screenings during pregnancy and breast feeding are very limited.
    • Even though my breast biopsy last month came back benign it was still a scary experience. However, the thought of going over a year without an MRI or mammogram is even scarier! Even though my breast surgeon feels comfortable with the calculated risk I’d be taking by foregoing screenings during pregnancy, the thought that a cancer could be developing, undetected during that time terrifies me!
  •  Would I be able to handle healing from surgeries with two children?!
    • I know I’ll manage. People do this (and worse!) every day with less help than I know I’ll have. But I’ve heard so many stories about how physically and emotionally challenging the recovery from the surgeries can be. I’m less worried about the physical healing from the BSO…it’s a fairly minor procedure (as far as surgeries go). But the mastectomy? It’s supposedly pretty brutal. The thought of not being able to play with and pick up our one little guy for an extended period of time makes my heart hurt. Thinking about being that limited with him + another even littler one? That makes me really really sad.
  • What if I DO get sick?
    • This is of course the biggest and scariest of all of the questions. This is what leaves me cold and hollow feeling when I think about my cancer risk — the thought of leaving a young child behind. The thought of leaving two young children behind just dials up that terror about a zillion notches.  Developing aggressive cancer and having it go undetected during pregnancy is pretty much the nightmare scenario.  But I know the chance of this is small…but it’s still there and it scares me. Not enough to stop me (us) from wanting to add to our family, but it  certainly does give me pause.

Clearly, my mind is good a finding things to be anxious about. Now that I’ve shared these worries aloud, I want to try to put them on the back shelf of my mind for a while and just enjoy the ride and know that in this moment I am healthy. If another baby is in our future, I’ll be overjoyed. If not, our family can grow in other ways.  This is me trying to make peace with my complete and utter lack of control.

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