Wednesday 4 August 2010

You keep it all… out.

As those who’ve been reading this blog for a long time will attest, there aren’t many things I keep schtum about. When my parents cracked the post-diagnosis tension by revealing to my future sister-in-law that I’d once eaten my own shit as a toddler, I went one better by blogging about it. When my mid-chemo piles got so bad that I forced my husband to concoct an olive-oil-based soothing ointment, I almost immediately pressed publish on the story. When my pubes grew back weirdly straight after treatment, I didn’t search messageboards for similar instances in other people, but told you about it on here instead.

Even outside of blogging, I often wonder whether I have some kind of Truth Tourette’s. I’ve sent many a tweet admitting to post-constipation eagle-landings, confessing that I’ve written a card, wrapped presents and baked muffins for my cat’s birthday, and owning up to eating pick n’ mix for breakfast. And that’s not even nearly the end of it. After getting weirded out by early-menopause vaginal dryness, I chose to have a conversation about lubrication options with not my doctor, but my former MA course tutor. I’ll occasionally buy a frock on the sly that head-of-banking P doesn’t know about, only to ball him out when he doesn’t compliment it on its first outing. And, as a particularly stupid 16-year-old, I told my Mum that I’d lost my virginity the day after it happened. (Yeah, that’s right: Told. My. Mum.)

The thing is, Bullshit stories or otherwise, there’s something exceptionally cathartic – not to mention hugely addictive – about ‘putting it out there’; about being so emotionally transparent that nobody ever has to wonder what you’re doing or how you’re feeling. Heart on my sleeve? Hell, mine’s practically tattooed on my forehead.

But not today. Today, I’m blogging with news that is central to an ongoing story on Alright Tit (and if you haven’t read for a while, it might be best to head here, then here). Namely, the results of the genetic testing my family have been having.

The upshot? My Mum carries the breast cancer gene.

And so, dear reader (ooh, how very Charlotte Brontë of me), I hope that, on this occasion, you will forgive me for saying little more than that. For while I think it’s important for you to know where my BRCA-2 gene was inherited from in the context of my ongoing narrative, the rest of this particular story isn’t mine to tell: it’s Mum’s.

But what I do want to make clear is this: I have inherited many a wonderful gene from my Mum (my impeccable grammar, my mercifully thick hair, my love of Motown, my soft hands, my frightening organisational abilities…) and, yes, there are of course things which I’d rather have inherited from my matriarchal side than this (handiness in the kitchen, an amazing memory, ease in any kind of company, good timekeeping, skinny legs…) but that is just the way it goes. So my Mum – any Mum; any parent – shouldn’t feel any more responsible for the passing on of a completely-out-of-their-control gene than they do about their child’s notoriously sweet tooth, their inability to pack a suitcase without tearing strips off whoever is in the same room, or their propensity to throw up after three glasses of wine. Because, frankly, if having no BRCA-2 gene meant having different parents, then I’d snatch those cancer cells right out of your hand.

So, yes, this is a blow (not to mention a shock, given that this side of the family’s breast-cancer history starts and ends in my left tit) for everyone involved – for Mum, for Dad, for me and P, for my brother Jamie, for my sister-in-law Leanne and for the relatives on Mum’s side of the family who are yet to be tested. But, like we all said after learning of my own gene mutation, it’s better to be aware of this than otherwise. Thus, all you need to know is that my family; my lovely little nuclear family, so perfect in its traditionalism, so celebrated in its togetherness, so firece in its loyalty, so revered in its sense of humour, and so adorable in its inexplicable reliance on greetings cards for even the slightest occasion (‘Congratulations! You’ve taken a dump!’) – my wonderful, virtuous, admired, first-class, incomparable family is just fine, thanks. 

And, in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.


Gordon said...

I'm sure it was a shock to your Mum, but I've no doubt you'll continue to reassure her that she is the best Mum in the world (bar MY Mum of course). said...

So sorry to hear that Lisa. But well done you for blogging about it, it can't have been an easy decision (have been there in my own way) and I think you struck the balance just right.


Wardotron said...

I want one of those greetings cards.

swisslet said...

I know the feeling. Although the genetic link is far less understood, my mum felt awful when I was diagnosed with MS.... as though it was HER FAULT.... and presumably she feels even worse now that my younger brother is apparently showing the first symptoms. What can anyone do though, eh? It's hardly something you can assign blame over, is it. She's also the reason I've got blue eyes. I'm just fine with the mum I've got, thanks.

What I *did* do, though, was volunteer my genetic information for an (anonymous) study they're doing on MS when I was at my last clinic appointment and busy doling out blood samples for various other things. I'm suspicious of genetic sampling and ID cards at the best of times, but this is one thing I would appreciate a little more information on. Not so much for me, but perhaps for my younger brother, or my elder brother's kids or anyone else further down the line affected by this (and any other) stupid damn inconvenient disease.

We've had this discussion on twitter, but for those who don't avidly follow my feed, the best phrase ever for that satisfying early morning deposit is "Gorilla's Breakfast".... so good you could almost turn around and eat it.

Thank you and goodbye.


alhi said...

Hope your mum is OK. It must have been a real shock to all.

Fen said...

Sorry to hear the news on the rogue gene. By you sharing your story it is demystifying it for others and if that saves lives or makes it easier for anyone then even better. As I've said before, your honesty is refreshing and very engaging.

Diana Parkhouse said...

My mum blames herself for my inherited gene mutation. But then, it must be her mums fault, and then maybe her dads fault, etc, ad infinitum.

The buck stops at chance.

Paula said...

I'm sorry to hear more bad news. I was told no need to do the genetic testing at the moment ... but truly realise that it might be something I have to contemplate in the future. For the moment ignorance is ... well ... ignorance.


lilianavonk said...

Please give your mum a ginormous hug from me (and as always, save one of equal strength and duration for yourself).

My mom wouldn't even admit that she had depression, let alone acknowledge its genetic causation, but it's the primary reason I've chosen not to have kids, as I want that particular buck to stop with me. Having been raised by a mentally ill parent, there's no way in hell I'm going to inflict that on any child of mine. (It's bad enough that my cats have to deal with it.)

But my mom's legacy is more than genetic--it's also what I learned from her example, especially with regard to figuring out I never wanted to compromise my own standards just to fit a societal ideal...or refuse to acknowledge a fundamental truth because reality was too frightening for me.

I hope that instead of focusing on the BRCA-2 gene, your mom will remember to take some credit for having raised such an amazing daughter; not every parent can claim to have a kid who is equal parts fearless and funny, indomitable and inspiring.

That's the kind of legacy any parent would be proud to claim as his or her own.

Anonymous said...

It must have been really hard to hear about this and even harder to blog about it. I want to send super snuggles to your Mum as I am sure the guilt is eating her up (Mums do a great line in feeling guilty for things that they have no control over!). I don't know what this means for your Mum's health so am also sending you all lots of virtual love.

Anonymous said...

Don't think i can say much more than lilianavonk xxx Fi

Anonymous said...

Without your Mum you wouldn't be here...but I can bet she feels so guilty. It's insane and illogical but still it happens. You'll both be fine though. Life goes on and you're going to make a complete recovery. And Mum, it's nobody's fault.

Gabriel said...

Hi Lisa, please let your mum know that not one day goes by when I do not blame myself for Gabriel's cancer.

We had genetic testing, Gabriel does not have the genetic mutation that can be associated with his cancer type, but still I question what I did or did not do that made him develop such an awful cancer type at the age of 2 - did I eat something when I was pregnant? Did I drink a glass of wine that I should not have? Did I let his high chair be located too close to the microwave? Did the wireless network in our home cause it? I don't know, but all I do know is that not one day goes by when I don't blame myself. I think it is something that the mother of a child who has cancer will always feel - guilt, blame, and utter sadness that this has happened to their much loved child.

My child is 2 - you are in your early 30s but you are, and always will be your mother's child.

I hope you understand what I am trying to say and I hope that your mum (and all the other oncology mums out there) learn to stop beating ourselves up over these things. I thought I would stop feeling blame if our genetic testing ruled out the mutation, but I did not. So I think what I am trying to say is genetic or not, a mother feels total blame. It is the overwhelming love of the child I think that does that!

Your blog shows nothing but true love, compassion and respect for your mother and is lovely to read from that point of view.

Gabriel's Mummy

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say wow - only just discovered your blog but I love it. So amusing and interesting. You're a brave lady!

Also, if you don't know about them, check out the Breast Cancer Haven here in London. They offer free complimentary therapies and support for anyone affected by breast cancer.

And keep on blogging! You're fab! x

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa Well I've been reading your blog (and yes I've also bought your book)since just after I was diagnosed in October 2008. I read about it in a magazine and thought it was for me- I too had realised that most of the "stuff" around the whole crap that was breast cancer was for nice, older people not for people who said "fuck" far too often or who's friends said things like "well you've got crap hair anyway, if you loose it, it might grow back thicker" and "hey you'll end up with the tits of a 20 year old" when they were diagnosed (as well as being the best friends in the world). You have done what I meant to do but I'm too much of a lazy bastard and a technical fuckwit. However, I wrote my "cancer story" when you asked for them and never sent it and have written many other comments that I also haven't sent but today's blog has finally pushed me over the edge (I've always previously had some vague notion of it being a bit needy to reply as if I'm trying to get you to be my friend!!!!) I have a huge family history of breast cancer (Mum twice, Auntie, maternal grandmother, grandmother's sister and 4 of her daughters in turn etc etc)and have lived for many years with the thought of when I get it rather than if. All genetic testing has come back negative but the general consensus of opinion is that there's some other dodgy genes that they haven't yet identified. I have two daughters and, since being the latest in the long line of family members to succumb to the BS, the thing that has been hardest of all has been thinking about the hideous legacy that I may have passed on to my girls. Your blog today has made me feel more comfortable with it than the counseling, the hypnotherapy and all manner of other stuff. This isn't just a "me me me" thing though as I also wanted to add my considerable weight to your message to your Mum in turn. I wouldn't have changed my Mum for anything and if to have had her as my mother I had to go through this bollocks them so be it - she was more than worth it. I'd better go be extra nice to the kids now so that if the worst ever does happen, they'll think I was worth it. Sending much love and positive thoughts Jane XXXX PS The lack of feeling in both tits is a weird one, you know how people who have lost their legs still get itchy feet ...........

365'er said...

Lisa, you do it to me nearly every time, the tears are welling up reading this latest entry. How am I ever going to survive reading that damned book of yours? Your relationship with your parents is so beautiful, it's such an honour to be allowed to witness how strong it is so publicly like this. As others have said, give your mum a big hug from me ... and treat yourself to a right big dump any time you like :D.
Lots of love, Colin @365er