“Life is the sum of all your choices.” Albert Camus
Yesterday, Joe, Alex and I got up early and rode our bikes from our Park City condo over to Deer Valley and then on Royal Street up the mountain. It was so beautiful. Sad to say but I like biking uphill better than down because, as Alex says, I apply the brakes way too much on steep hills. It hurts my hands to hold the brakes for that long. I don’t like to picture Alex flying down the mountain on his bike. He hasn’t developed all those fears we gather as we progress in life. So on the one hand, I’m happy for him but, on the other hand, I know too much. Park City was looking so green and beautiful yesterday. The light hitting the mountains combined with the blue sky was an amazing combination. It feels so great to be alive and to be able to enjoy being healthy. I am feeling more and more like my younger, pre-cancer-treatment-self, energetic and ready to take on the next challenge. But yesterday was an especially wonderful day because my oldest son, Nate, turned 30. I remember being on that same Deer Valley road 30 years ago with Joe and my grandparents, Owen and Vernessa Reynolds. Nate was about 2 months old and we took a ride. We stopped and took a picture of me holding Nate on that very road. Now in life, I get to watch Nate and his darling wife, Mary, care for their little girls, Maggie and Kate.
I received an interesting comment on my blog from Liz who also has the same BRCA 1 Gene mutation. She said: “I was researching my BRCA1 mutation IVS5-11T>G hoping to find the country of origin and happened upon your blog. I live in Utah as well – small world. Glad to hear you are beating this thing.” Apparently, they have discovered hundreds of mutations of the BRCA 1 Gene and some lines go back to Great Britain. I know my Grandfather, James Lee Young, carried the gene and think his mother, Ida Lee, also carried the gene since she died at 65 due to cancer. Her death certificate states that she died of stomach cancer but my guess is that it started in her ovaries.
As Liz and I continued to correspond she told me some other interesting information regarding her family and cancer. “My gene comes from my paternal grandmother, maiden name Quinn, who was born just outside of Idaho Falls. I have not traced it back any farther. Others with the same mutation have traced it to the island of Great Britain. My grandmother’s mother’s family is from Sweden so I am guessing that it was passed on to her from her father.”
“Fortunately, I found out about the gene prior to a cancer diagnosis and opted for risk reducing surgery. My paternal half sister and niece developed BRCA1+ breast cancer at 31 and 22 respectively, both are still alive. My half sister’s first cancer diagnosis was 17 years ago. 10 years later she developed a new primary in the other breast and was referred for genetic testing. 3 years ago my niece developed breast cancer. I had a gut feeling that I was a carrier. I signed up for a research study at Hunstman for BRCA and found that I carried the mutation. My father and his mother both died in their 40’s of cancers related to the gene.”
I loved communicating with Liz because I feel so drawn to others with this gene. They know what it feels like to be living with this weird mutation that you have no control over. It’s like we both have been given this dose of adversity and can understand each other’s situation. My sister, Taylor, who carries the gene, is always so generous to thank me for finding the gene. I appreciate that and am so grateful she and Emily have done preventative surgery. And I’m so incredibly grateful that my tumor was found. People in my religion often think that when you have a son on a mission, your home will be blessed because he is out there serving others. But we tend to look at blessings in a narrow way. I remember thinking that Taylor went on a mission and I got cancer. No blessing there, right? But then today I realized that the blessing came in the form of finding the tumor, and me being alive at a time when medical knowledge could eradicate the cancer from my body. That is a blessing. I think we live each day with these tremendous blessings and we don’t ever realize them, or if we do, don’t acknowledge them. We get so focused on what is missing in our lives that we neglect to see what’s there. I’m so guilty of this and I hate what it does to us. It just makes us want more.
Joe and I, baby Nate, Reynolds Grandparents on Royal Street, Deer Valley