THE BLOG
12/30/2014 02:50 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2015

Genetic Testing for Cancer

I have a family history of cancer. At least five generations deep that I know about. Out of the five of us, only two won the war and survived. After my mom died from ocular melanoma, I went to see a dermatologist. He said to me, "Have you considered genetic testing, because with your family history, I'm surprised that you had a child." OUCH! He caught me off guard, and the only thing I could think to say was, "Do you sell the testing? Is that why you just asked me that?" He didn't sell it, he just promoted it to poor single moms who just lost their mom and had cancer themselves.

When I went to see my family practitioner, I asked him to refer me and he sent me to a woman doctor in the same building. The genetic doctor, who I met briefly, had an associate take me into a small office and ask me questions. The associate did a diagram of my family and all their cancers, and then told me she would have a nurse draw some blood. I asked about the breast cancer gene since my grandmother and her grandmother both had it, but she told me it's best to have my grandmother tested for that gene. If my grandma tested negative, that would save all her offspring from having to do the test too. So they tested for all the other things that they can test for now, except for the BRAC gene.

I called my grandma and asked if she would do the test. She said that her cancer was not genetic, that her cancer was caused by hormones the doctor had prescribed to her. Roadblock. A few weeks later the genetic doctor's office called me to tell me to come back in. Another assistant took me to the same office and pulled out the one page of results. It was about a paragraph of science lingo. I was negative for all the types of cancers in that test. She asked me if I needed to talk to the genetic doctor, but I said, "Negative is good, so I'm good." I still don't know about the breast cancer gene. I should go back and have that test, but if I'm positive, will I get a radical mastectomy like Angelina Jolie? If I'm positive, that opens the door to all my relatives to have to deal with that news too. I did look at my 23 And Me profile, and it said that I don't have copies of the three early-onset breast and ovarian cancer mutations identifiable by 23andMe, but I may still have a different mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2.

When I decided to have the test done, I figured I would carry something since I had already had cancer myself. I was pretty surprised that I didn't test positive. The associate said that they can't test for everything, so it's not like I'm in the clear by any stretch of the hopeful imagination. When she handed me the page with the word "negative" on the top, I felt relieved. There's a chance that I won't die from cancer. If I had tested positive for anything, like melanoma, I would definitely stay out of the sun more. As it is, when I go to the beach, I cover myself in sunblock and wear a hat. I would do more research on the foods that help protect and heal the damaging effects of the sun. I would be more proactive, but I wouldn't stop living.

I'm not sorry that I had a child, even though some scientists say she might have a higher chance of having cancer. She eats healthy organic food, avoids soda and food dyes, wears sunblock, exercises, and laughs a lot. Isn't that what we all should be doing anyways? Life is to be lived and living in fear of dying isn't living. Death is inevitable so no matter what, everyone dies from something. I'm hoping for old age, but who knows. Genetic testing gave me relief from some of the known, but right from the start they tell you that they can't test for everything. I am glad I did it. If I ever get the chance to have more offspring, I would go for it. That dermatologist won't like hearing that, but I don't go to him anymore anyway. Creating life is the opposite of cancer, and I don't think that just because I am from generations of cancer, that the cycle will continue. In fact, the genetic testing confirmed I'm cancer gene-free.