Just a few words from your bleary correspondent. As promised, I've been relieved of a significant weight, literal and figurative. My breasts and I are parted. The surgery was lengthy but without complication, and while it will be another week before definitive pathology results come in, the news is tentatively excellent. Two "sentinel" lymph nodes (acting much like Francisco and Bernardo on the ramparts of Elsinore) reported no hostile incursion, and the border of the tumor likewise appeared clear. We're holding off on the champagne for now (not a good mix with Oxycodone), but we have real grounds to hope that the enemy has been successfully expelled.
The bad news actually came Friday, but I could not post it here until I'd had a chance to talk with those whom it affects. I had a call from Cheryl Miranda, the genetics counselor I'd seen, relaying my test results. She told me that I do indeed carry a mutation of the BRCA-1 gene, which we can only assume I inherited from Mom (and she from her mother or father). While the heaviest risks from this mutation fall on women (who face a 60-80% chance of developing breast cancer and a 40-60% chance of developing ovarian cancer over a lifetime), it can also raise a man's risk for prostate cancer, melanoma, and even breast cancer. Thus my bad news is also potentially bad news for everyone in my matriline. The odds that my brother, sister, or uncle carries the mutation are 50-50.
I know it's utterly irrational but also probably inevitable that I feel as if I have personally put them in danger, laid a blood curse on my nearest and dearest. But the curse is really one of knowledge, and therefore mixed. We now have an explanation for our family's lousy "luck," and we can take precautions, some of them radical. I learned when I called Megan that she had been rehearsing her response for weeks, readying herself for an expected blow. Predictably, she worries most for her daughter, Maya; as to her own health she is coolly pragmatic. "Someone asked me the other day what plans I had for the summer, and I said I don't know, maybe getting a double mastectomy." My brave, loving sis has always been ready to follow me anywhere, but I fervently hope she won't follow me here.