No, I’m not talking about “I love you”. It’s an entirely different set of words that I’ll get to.
Ever since I went public with my story and the media got involved, they’ve always asked if I have siblings and if they’ve been tested. My younger sister is 17, about to start college. She’s fielded the questions well, always saying, “No, I haven’t, but I plan to”. That changed recently. She decided she didn’t want to wait any longer despite my insistence that she didn’t have to do what I’ve done. So a couple of weeks ago we went in to the Cancer Genetics department at Royal Oak Beaumont hospital- two floors below where I’d had my mastectomy a couple of months before. Her, dad, and I met with the genetic counselor, Sarah, and listened to the facts that we’d already memorized. The potential treatments. The statistics. Sammy could say these in her sleep. She’d decided she wanted her blood drawn then and there, and they were accommodating to her wishes.
Then the hard part started. For me, worse than finding out I was positive was the waiting period. The not knowing is so much worse than knowing and having it be bad news. I’d warned her of this, but it hurt me as her older sister to watch her struggle and sort of shut down in the 2 weeks it took for the results to come in. I tried to cheer her up, take her to the movies and shopping, but I knew there was nothing I could do. She just had to go through it.
I’ve learned that I have a spot-on gut feeling. I don’t know how to explain it, but I just knew I was positive even before I’d decided to test. Just like I knew I was positive, I knew Sammy was negative. I don’t know how to explain it but I physically felt it deep in my chest. Sammy, however, thought differently, she had the gut feeling that she was positive.
The day came. A Friday. Dad, Sammy, and I headed to the hospital around 8:30am. I sat in the back seat with her and just held her hand through the shivers. When we got there, we sat in the waiting room for no more than 5 minutes before they called Sammy back. I assumed they were just calling her back to give her the legal speech again and then they’d call dad and I in for the results. A few minutes after Sammy was called back Sarah popped her head in the waiting room where dad and I were and asked us if we wanted to come see Sammy. I jumped up first, dad followed. We walked into the conference room where I saw Sammy sitting in front of a very familiar piece of paper. The same piece of paper I have. I recognized it immediately and my eyes flew to the little grey box where my results said “positive for a deleterious mutation”, but instead was greeted with what I titled this post, the best 3 word combination in existence.
Poor dad, standing behind me, the conference room door still open. I feel bad that I sort of ruined that moment for him. Once I saw those words I had an extremely physical reaction. I literally fell to my knees and wailed. I screamed, I cried, I screamed some more. Sammy sat there patting my head. Sarah started crying, dad started crying assuming my reaction was one of grief, not elation. He didn’t know what was going on and Sammy couldn’t bring herself to speak yet, so she pointed to the grey box on the paper. Then dad really cried, and he said, “Oh, they’re happy tears. They’re happy tears.” I feel so bad for giving him that scare but it was all I could do to keep myself from melting into a puddle.
After that emotional experience Sarah asked us if we have any questions and we walked out, but not before being greeted by Dr. Zakalik (mom’s old oncologist and director of cancer genetics). She said she heard me all the way down the hall with her door closed! She smiled though, she knew what this meant. She knew the happiness this would bring to my family.
Sammy is healthy. She’s dealing with a bit of guilt, being the empathetic, sensitive, kind soul she is. She feels bad that I have to go through this and she doesn’t and it’s taking a lot of restraint for me not to slap her. I tell her that, too. I would have a mastectomy every day for the rest of my life if it meant she didn’t have to have it once. So for now, we’re keeping her results relatively private while she accepts her new future, one without doctors offices and prophylactic surgeries.
This post will sit in my drafts for a while until I get her a-okay to let the cat out of the bag. It’ll be hard, though, because I want to shout it from the rooftops. Everything was worth it. My best friend is okay. This was the greatest day of my life.