rustic signs

Amy's story {my BRCA story}

This is part of my story. Click here to read the first post. Click here to read the second post.

My gynecologist and my breast surgeon share a patient and they wanted me to know her story. We will call her Amy. 

Amy tested positive for BRCA when she was 35. Her mom had survived breast cancer a few years earlier, so Amy thought she had time to make a decision about surgery and opted to monitor the gene for a while. Every three months she went through some form of screening, ultrasound, mammogram, MRI. Amy stuck with al of her appointments and the doctors watched her closely. Just two years into the monitoring plan Amy's doctor found breast cancer on an MRI. Since the cancer wasn't visible by mammogram yet, they thought it was in early stages. When Amy went in to get her double mastectomy the doctor found that the cancer was in her lymph nodes, stage 4. Amy was in shock. 

She had made a mistake. She wished she could go back in time. She was mad at herself for saying no to the surgery that she had to have anyway, the surgery that would have prevented the cancer that she now faced. 

Through these events, Amy decided that she wanted to be a voice for other BRCA patients. She offered her phone number to anyone facing this decision. She urged the doctors to use her story as a cautionary tale. 

My doctors did use Amy's story to influence their recommendations for me. They told me about her, about how she is in chemotherapy treatments now, about how they are all mad at themselves for not doing all they could to prevent this from happening. They were all shocked at how quickly the cancer progressed and at how, with the most careful monitoring, it still snuck by them and started to spread.

On Monday morning I met Amy. As I was being prepared for surgery my sweet nurse told me that she had read my chart. 

"I want you to know that you are doing the right thing," she said. "I am also BRCA positive, but I opted to not do the surgeries. I was only 35 and I thought I had time to think about it. I thought that if I decided my age 40 I would be okay." She lifted her surgical cap off her head to reveal no hair. "As you can she," she continued, "I don't have any hair because I am going through chemotherapy right now." 

I was a little stunned to be meeting this girl, the one who I had influenced our decision. The one who went before me. I had used her story as an illustration of God's grace in my life and his loving hand guiding our decisions with grace and peace. I told my friends over and over that I felt grateful for all the people who had gone before me to help me make this difficult decision. My mom, and my aunt, heck even Angelina, and Amy, who I had never met but was brave enough to share her story.

I didn't really know what to say. As tears filled both of our eyes I took her hand and thanked her for sharing her story. She told me that I was being so brave, and she didn't have the strength to make the decision that I am making. I told her it is just by the grace of Jesus that I can do anything and that God has graciously brought us to this point. It is of no strength of my own. 

Amy squeezed my hand a led me back to surgery. The next time I woke up I was in my room with the Dude. I said in groggy, slurred speech, "Isn't that crazy about my nurse?" He said, "I am so glad we got to meet her."

I came home Tuesday and shared the story with my mom. I hadn't shared her name yet and my mom interjected, "is her name Amy?" "Yes, how did you know? 

Turns out, just days before my mom had met a lady wearing a relay for life shirt. As a cancer survivor my mom always takes notice of that kind of thing. She asked the story behind the shirt. The girl said she was wearing it for her friend and co-worker, Amy, who was battling breast cancer. Mom stopped right there and prayed for Amy.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

— Isaiah 55:8-12

Sometimes God's Word does not make sense with our own thoughts. We ought to go as deep as he calls us into the reckless, risky place of faith. If he is with you in that place, you are better off than being by yourself in a place where you stand on your own two feet. - Priscilla Shirer