by Raychel Kubby Adler
I have always felt as if I have a target on my back. A big red cancer bullseye. Most days it is just there, somewhere in my subconscious, and then there are the other days. The day the mammogram technician kept taking picture after picture of the same square inch of my left breast. All of the days when I listed my health history and the litany of close relations with cancer: mother, sister, grandmothers, cousins. The days I talked with my sister, who although 16 years my elder, was my genetic match and suffering from metastatic breast cancer.
I remember my surprise one day when I caught myself saying “when I get cancer.”
So, after having children and finishing nursing, I decided to pursue genetic testing. My sister who was positive for a BRCA2 mutation always wanted this for me. She felt since she could no longer save herself, it was her duty to help me help myself. Helping me have a different reality/destiny then her own was her only chance to do something differently.
I made an appointment with a genetic counselor without thinking much of it. The possibility of testing negative never occurred to me. The day I received my results the target moved front and center. My positive result was validation of what I already knew, and in some ways, motivation to do something about it.
I remember the genetic counselor saying something about how sometimes women’s quality of life takes a dip after getting a positive result, but that one year later most women found they had an even higher quality of life then before they tested. I understood she said this to console me, but the idea repelled me. Why did my quality of life need to dip? What if this result could be more like a get-out-of-jail-free card? Why did people look at me after hearing this news as if it were a death sentence? Although statistically I have a very high chance of developing breast cancer, now I could actually do something about it and have my insurance support my choices. Ever the optimist, I left the appointment with a big “to do” list of research, doctors to meet, and choices to make.
In the months following my test, I realized how blessed I am to have a positive mindset and a supportive environment that enable me to move forward full of hope for what lies ahead. I am also lucky to have the resources to navigate and utilize the health insurance and medical world labyrinth.
My experience as a breast cancer previvor brought new focus to my work as a Wellness Coach. Prior to this “health issue” I had always worked with women who wanted to make healthy behavior changes in their nutrition, fitness, stress management, sleep, and life balance. My work in these areas has always remained disparate from my own experience as the caregiver and relative of cancer survivors. For me, being part of FORCE illuminated just how much we all need each other through this process, so that none of us has to feel alone, without resources, or confused about our choices and path to wellness.
Through Wellness Coaching I can help people focus on what they value and desire in terms of health and well-being and motivate them to understand how to overcome the obstacles they may find in their way. Through FORCE I have the means to help women prevent cancer and to improve the lives of those who already have contact with the disease. These resources are available to anyone who wants to take this next step towards optimal well-being.