It is not what happens to us that makes or breaks us, it is how we react to it.

My dear sweet Penelope had blood drawn today. She fought me on it prior to the blood draw. My kids always do. They always want to fight vaccinations, flu shots and any sort of pain inflicted by health care providers in general. My response to them is always the same, “It’s a part of life, it is not something to fear.” Of course, I am there to hold them and wipe away the tears. But I refuse to contribute to any phobia that comes along with medical intervention. It is necessary and it is a part of life. Maybe I am this way because I am a health care provider. Or maybe I am this way because I am not as empathetic as one would hope. Or maybe I am this way because I am BRCA1 positive and I know that if my kids are positive too, this will be an integral part of their future.

Penelope, 7, was not having her blood drawn today to find out her genetic status. Someday she will though. Should I have them tested now? I’ve contemplated this many times. Should I send their saliva into a commercial lab such as 23 and me? Should I know before they have the ability to comprehend the gravity of the results? The answer is no. It is not fair for me to know something about their bodies and their health without their understanding of what it means. The day will come for our two children to be tested. But it is a decision we will make together.

Breast cancer, BRCA and cancer in general is something we have always talked about and something we will always talk about. Complete honesty and openness about their bodies and their risks is essential to raising my children. What is the purpose of shielding them of the bad, the scary, the ugly? It is not going to serve them well as adults. My children will not get out of life unscathed, nor will anyone. Illness, pain, suffering, and loss are a part of life. I believe our job as parents is to give our kids the tools to handle crisis. It is not what happens to us that makes or breaks us, it is how we react to it. I also believe when we go through difficult times we are building our character that is infused with integrity, strength and esteem.

The challenges I have faced have been undoubtedly tough. Fine, down right shitty. But I wouldn’t change that. Who would I be if life was uncomplicated, comfortable, and easy? I would be rigid. I would be ungrateful. I would be insensitive. I would be thoughtless. I would be narrow-minded. Trudging through the cruelties of life has made me hopeful, honest, and humorous (and give me a potty-mouth -a big fu&kin potty-mouth.) And isn’t that what it’s all about? Sharing our experiences with others through hope, humor, honesty…and the occasional F word.

The day will come that my children find out their genetic status. If they are positive, I will not cry, or be angry or sad. I will hold them and tell them that this isn’t something to fear, it is a part of life. Just as I did when they were young. They will know that it’s not what happens to us in life, it is how we react to it that will make all the difference in the world. They will know the necessity of humor, the strength in honesty, and the power of hope…and how damn good it feels to cuss.

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Bridget Stillwell1 Comment