brca, brca everywhere

I read a lot of magazines, thanks to various airline-mile reward plans that allow me to trade miles for magazines (I don’t fly often enough, and the restrictions on the miles just aren’t worth it to me).

I’ve been noticing a few more mentions of BRCA lately. I discovered Jessica Queller/Pretty Is What Changes in a magazine, and reading her book/corresponding with her is what led me to FORCE, Bright Pink (and thus my long-lost soulmate bestie), etc.

A couple weeks ago, I was reading Glamour’s June 2010 issue. In their swimsuit section (titled Every Body is a Hot Body), there was a blurb where designers could share their favorite style of bathing suit and what looks best on their own bodies. Wedged in the middle of comments about slim figures, poochy stomachs, and post-baby bodies was this:

A front-lacing halter really flatters if you’ve had post-mastectomy reconstruction like me – and it’s really comfortable. — Patricia Brett, Veronica Brett

I was intrigued. I had no idea if this Patricia Brett had undergone a mastectomy to treat cancer or prevent it, but Google is my friend and soon enough I was frantically reading her website on my phone’s tiny screen. I cheated cancer, the “about” section begins. The page goes on to describe this particular family’s experience with BRCA1, and how Patricia Brett went on to design swimsuits for post-mastectomy women.

I was pretty pleased to see such a thing mentioned in a magazine. No, it wasn’t a deeply educational cover story, but maybe that’s what I liked – it was normal. Oh, you have a unique body because you’ve given birth/gained weight/lost weight/etc? Well, I have a unique body because I had a mastectomy! It made me feel less like a freak, in some small way.

Just now, I was perusing Self (the June 2010 issue, to be exact) and taking one of those self-quizzes, this one about my skin cancer risk (yes, I know it’s higher thanks to BRCA2). One of the final questions relates to your personal and family medical history, with options like “I’ve had skin cancer” or “No one in my family has had skin cancer.” Option number three of four was “I (or my mother or my sister) was diagnosed with breast cancer linked to the BRCA2 gene.” Add four points to your score for that one, upping your risk of skin cancer.

And I don’t know, maybe I’m just a little crazy. But having it mentioned makes me feel less alone, somehow. Less like I’m carrying some freaky genetic deviation, some Big Secret you can’t mention in mixed company.

I have quite a few essays/articles I’ve come across in the past couple months that I’ll share soon, but I just wanted to make a note of the things I’ve been finding. I’ve known about BRCA for four years this summer, and with the exception of Jessica Queller’s article and maybe one other mention, this is the first time I’ve encountered such public, casual mentions.

I like to think this means we’re making steps toward more education and understanding.

And also? Today, as it turns out, is exactly two weeks since I was last devastatingly upset about my BRCA status. I’m not 100% sure what changed, but I have my fingers crossed that I’ve reached some kind of acceptance, at least for now.

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2 thoughts on “brca, brca everywhere

  1. I always say, learning your BRCA status is like buying a VW — suddenly you see it everywhere! It’s heartening to read about BRCA mutations in the media, though don’t read the comments. People can be such assholes.

  2. You are not alone. It has been my mission, along several of my close friends, to spread the word about previvors. We wrote a book called Previvors: Facing the Breast Cancer Gene and Making Life-Changing Decision. It launches on october 5th http://www.previvors.com You are not alone!

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