“This individual is heterozygous for a variant of uncertain significance in POLE.” Results: c.4523G>A (p.Arg1508His).
“Huh?” you may ask yourself. Exactly. The results of my genetic testing show that, with the knowledge that scientists and doctors currently have, there is no genetic explanation for my breast cancer. My deviated POLE gene has been associated with colorectal cancer, so I guess that just means my colonoscopies will start earlier. There really wasn’t much that the geneticist and her child assistant (read: an assistant in her mid-20s) could tell me. Therefore, where did my cancer come from? Was it the old building I lived in for four years? I want a gypsy with a crystal ball in a dark room to provide me with the answers to these questions:
- What caused my cancer?
- What day did the tumor start growing?
- If I had eaten a perfect diet and exercised every day, would I still have cancer?
- Will I have a recurrence of breast cancer?
- Will I get another type of cancer?
Back to the child assistant. One of the signs that I’m getting older is that many of my healthcare providers are looking so young (and many of them are my age). For most of my life, doctors and nurses were older and sage-like; they belonged to a caste of demigods. Now they’re the people I used to party with back in the day when my friends were in med school. One of the things you do a lot of when you have cancer is sit and wait for doctors/treatment. When I was waiting for the geneticist, I decided to look her up on Facebook, and she is friends with SHADY STEPHEN! Many of you reading this have heard me speak about S.S. (some of you may know of him through the CSI Incident). He was the first person I dated when I started Match.com, and he is one of the shadiest people ever. The geneticist totally looked like someone he would hang out with. She looked younger than me, and she had a nose ring. There’s a good chance she slept with him, so there’s a good chance my geneticist and I slept with the same douchebag. That, my friends, is a St. Louis moment. When I went to have my egg retrieval, the nurse told me that we have a mutual friend on Facebook because this person had shared my blog. This was after she had injected me with a light sedative, and I said, “Oh yes, I lost my virginity to her husband when we were freshmen in college.” Again, a St. Louis moment.
But usually I’m the young one in the room. Whenever I go for chemo at Siteman Cancer Center (the preeminent cancer treatment center in St. Louis), I am the youngest person there. Seriously. I’m always asking myself, “Do people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s just not get cancer?” Most of the people I see in the chemo pods are 60+, and most of them are men. People have asked if I’ve thought about joining a support group for cancer patients who are my age, but I don’t want to because WHAT IF SOMEONE DIES? Seriously. I don’t want to join a group and then have someone I’ve become close to die. I don’t feel the need to commiserate with other cancer patients. I just complain to my mom about how tired I am.
I love an adventure, and I’m not a big fan of routine, so having cancer has presented itself with opportunities that, in the past, I’ve sought out through travel and meeting new people. I love non-quotidian moments. I like to hear and see new things, not just beautiful things, but strange and ugly ones too. Last week I went to Kohls to buy my grandpa a birthday present, and the girl at the check-out counter was a bit “special,” and she said to me, “Oh man, every time I see a cancer patient I just feel so sad because it makes me think of my friend’s dad who got cancer a second time and he lit himself on fire.” She seriously said that. It’s so hyperbolically inappropriate that I relish in it. I mean, who says that? Last weekend I went to a bar for the first time, and I had been wearing a wig that day. I had gone to a friend’s daughter’s birthday party, and I’d thought I’d give my wig a chance. It was annoying and difficult to not constantly readjust, but it’s cute, so I kept it on when I went to the bar. Ugh. I had one cocktail and lost my patience with it. A bar is a place where you go to relax and unwind, and there was something very zen about being at my favorite bar, The Royale, and just taking off my wig and having a cocktail. Who woulda thought that one day I’d be bald at The Royale? It makes me wonder what else is in store for me. I never would have thought I’d have breast cancer at 35, so what else will I encounter in my life? Honestly, I think the unknown is exciting.