talking BRCA with Texas dudes in Vegas bars

“So how do you guys know each other?”

It’s an awkward question when the answer is because we both have a cancer-causing genetic mutation. We tried to avoid the question; Long-Lost Soulmate Bestie finally said we’d met through a volunteer organization.

Apparently, that’s not a good enough answer for Texan dudes in Vegas bars. They joked with us that we were hiding something, that perhaps we’re actual secret lovers or met doing something scandalous.

“Well, it’s an organization that raises awareness for cancer. I didn’t want to say that because no one likes talking about cancer at the bar. See? Now no one’s talking and it’s awkward.” I was trying to make it less awkward but it failed, so one of the dudes asked, “What kind of cancer?”

“Breast and ovarian, mostly,” I told him. LLSB added that it’s hereditary cancer, and I said that we both have it in our families, with the kind of shrug that says “Meh, it sucks, but it is what it is.”

And one of the dudes, the cop who’s also never been to Vegas before, said “My wife has those genetics, too! Everyone in her family has died of breast cancer, even the men.” He said she’s tested positive for BRCA2 and is considering prophylactic surgery.

And then the world exploded.

LLSB and I both sat there in disbelief, saying “no way” and “you cannot possibly be serious”; she’s bummed for his wife while I’m mostly just shocked because I’ve never met someone out of the blue who’s been touched by BRCA. I sort of forgot people like that exist, even – I oftentimes get lost in thinking this is something that happened to just me and a few people I happened to meet after the fact. I forget that there are a lot more of us mutants out there.

We talked about it for quite awhile after, probably to the chagrin of Texas dude’s two friends. I wished the wife was there so she could know she’s not alone in dealing with this. Maybe she knows that already, but if not, I know how hard it is. LLSB and I shared our contact info at the end of the night; I doubt she’ll reach out, but we wanted to make sure she had the option.

A couple years ago, I never would’ve imagined I’d be in a bar in Las Vegas drinking with an amazing girlfriend, talking to random men from Texas, and sharing information about cancer. I never would’ve imagined I’d be feeling like I had information to share that could possibly help someone. And I never could’ve imagined I’d be doing it while laughing and smiling and feeling (mostly) normal.


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