I was 5 years old when my mom first got cancer.
One of my earliest memories is of lying in my parents’ bed, watching my mother stand naked in front of the mirror on the bathroom door. Brow furrowed, she is feeling her left breast; she says, “There’s something here.” I can’t help but wonder about the authenticity of this memory. Why would I—so young at the time—remember this particular moment, which I had no way of knowing would be the turning point of our lives? But the memory’s authenticity is cemented by one mundane detail: I can see the crack in the mirror, running from the corner to the center. This is the only memory I have of my mother with two breasts.
In the 33 years and five recurrences between my mother’s first cancer diagnosis and her death, she was always very open about her illness (far too open, I thought as a teenager). Yet she refused for many years to undergo genetic testing to see if she carried BRCA, the genetic mutation disproportionately found in Ashkenazi Jews that can cause breast cancer—despite the fact that her mother, too, had been diagnosed with the disease as a young woman. Read the rest at Tablet