Every person will react differently after finding out that they carry a BRCA mutation. When you learn that you have a BRCA gene mutation you may feel shocked, worried, scared, anxious, sad or even angry. You may ask yourself “why me?” Living with a BRCA mutation is a life-long journey. Realize that your feelings will probably change with time.
Emotions will likely be most intense when you are given your test result. You need to process your test results and what it means for you and your family. This takes time. What you are feeling is normal and has been felt by many other women who are BRCA mutation carriers.
Asking yourself “Why me?”
Natalie talks about how she felt
after getting her genetic test results
The beginning was the hardest. I felt, “why me?”…It was completely new to me and sort of something I didn’t expect, and it almost felt like a cancer diagnosis…Natalie
After she learned that she carried a BRCA gene mutation, Natalie asked, “why me?” In Natalie’s case she didn’t have a family history of breast cancer. Getting the news that you carry a BRCA mutation can almost feel like a diagnosis of cancer itself.
Other common reactions include feeling relieved or empowered by this knowledge. You may feel that by knowing that you are at high risk, you now have options to reduce your cancer risk, or detect a possible cancer at an early stage.
Tracy talks about feeling empowered
by the knowledge of her genetics
I believe that knowledge is power. We have this knowledge now to pass on to our children. But in going through it or being labeled or feeling like a high-risk family, we don’t live like that everyday.Tracy, BRCA carrier
Your knowledge of your cancer risk does not have to be an ongoing source of fear and worry. Tracy realized that this knowledge was actually empowering. She had important information that past generations did not have, and she could now pass this information on to her children.
Lara talks about how she no longer feels invincible
It was just odd. It’s like you can have things inside you that you don’t know about. That changes, in fact, your self-perception, just dramatically.Lara
Feeling that you were destined to test positive
Melissa and Tracy talk about how they had expected their positive test results
…I was very similar to my mom with those types of health issues. Not that there’s any correlation between that, but in my head I had resolved that I would have itTracy
Some women already feel like they’re at high risk before even getting their genetic test result back. Sometimes, it is difficult for others in your life to understand why you are feeling this way. Your reactions may also be based on your individual experience. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel.
Tori talks about the different emotions she felt after testing positive
…I was a little nervous, a little scared, feeling a little isolated because I don’t really know anyone else my age who has this gene, or this genetic mutation, and I didn’t really understand what it meant.Tori
Tori felt many different emotions after learning she tested positive for the BRCA mutation. In fact, she said it was overwhelming. Receiving the news that you carry a genetic mutation can feel life-changing. It takes time to process and accept what being at high risk means for you.
- It may be helpful for you to keep a journal of your experiences and reflections. The act of writing your thoughts down can be calming or cathartic and help you better understand what is causing you to feel the way you are. You also may find that journaling will help you make important decisions.
After finding out your genetic test results, ask yourself these questions:
- What is your biggest concern or worry about carrying this genetic mutation?
- Can you describe the feelings you are experiencing? Which feeling is the strongest?
- Is your reaction to learning that you’re at high risk different from those of other family members or other people that are important to you? How does this make you feel?