When I decided to write a piece about my decision to have a preventative mastectomy I never imagined it would generate so much response.

Over the last few days, I’ve received dozens of emails from readers in similar situations, notes of support from other women who’ve undergone the procedure, and tips about what to have on hand after surgery — a stack of videos, projects, and most importantly, button down pajamas. Friends, relatives, and associates came out of the woodwork to share personal stories about their own, or their families’ struggle with cancer. I feel really well-supported — thanks to everyone for all their notes, comments, and other messages.

Of course, the Internet peanut gallery was not so kind. On Newsvine, my article had received, at the time of writing, 163 comments. While a substantial number of them were supportive, and the volume, by its nature, was tremendously exciting, many posters used the space to blast my decision. People wrote that I am irrational, whiny, should not procreate, and that simply adjusting my diet by becoming a raw foodist, or adopting ayurvedic medicine would negate the need to have this procedure.  We even proved Godwin’s Law in only 40 comments.

Over at GoodbyeToBoobs, another member of the BRCA coterie mounted an excellent defense of my article — thanks for sticking up for me!

However, I want to state a few things for the record:

a) Having the gene is not the end of the world, in fact, I’ve managed to live a productive and happy 27 years and intend on living many more. If my future kids end up with the gene, it’ll be sad, but again, they can still lead happy and full lives.

b) I’m sure that diet and exercise affect cancer risk. But we’re talking about a risk as high as 85 percent. I doubt very much that exercise or diet could lower my personal risk significantly enough to rid me of the cancer creepies. Plus, from a scientific standpoint, I’m not going to rely on “this vitamin supplement totally cured this one dude’s cancer” to reduce my risk. Sure, the western system of medicine often doesn’t care for the spirit of patients, but it does a damn good job of keeping people alive.

c) I’m not crazy. I just have a low tolerance for risk, and there is substantial evidence that my personal risk of developing cancer is more than 50 percent. Would you play a gambling game if you knew you had a 60 percent chance of winning? A 50 percent chance? A 15 percent chance? What if the stakes were your life?

In the run-up to my surgery, I may post more on the topic in this space, so stay tuned.

Thanks for the Support
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2 thoughts on “Thanks for the Support

  • December 1, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Hi Lizzie,

    Thank you for having the courage to write this article, and those witty comments are amazing! I am 25 years old and both my mother and grandmother died of breast cancer. I can’t help but wonder what my chances are for getting this disease. I am in the process of seeking genetic counseling and am trying to stay positive, no matter what happens.

    I think the choice you made was a logical-if, 10 years ago, women could take a dna test to see their risk for getting breast cancer and were able to do something about it, I think they would. I hope your story encourages other women to write about their own and support one another.

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