Cancer Lottery

A single lymphocyte, with its natural killer (NK) cells, T cells and B cells.
Photo courtesy: National Cancer Institute

I’ve been saved.

I’ve been saved from a genetic DNA mismatch, the tumor suppressor MSH2 malfunction that wreaks havoc on health, on life, on longevity. It’s not just one cancer to deal with; it’s dozens. Most know it as the dreaded Lynch Syndrome.

In the months since learning my genetic-testing fate in my family’s 50-50 cancer lottery, I rage at the injustice of my sister’s positive result and her latest unwanted journey with another rarest-of-rare cancer. Growing up just one year apart (“Irish twins,” they called us), I cannot bear to see the injustice my sister bears, yet bears so wisely, so compassionately, so graciously. She, with her husband, sons, job, friends, home, and faith – she has so much to live for, to lean into hope, even as her hair falls out again, her legs fill with blood clots again, her skin prickly and tingly and numb, fighting infection after infection from her chemo-weakened immune system once again, and a body so scarred from surgeries that will never, ever fade away. She lives for her family, and most of all for her sons and their futures…

Cancer cells, so wickedly pretty Photo courtesy: National Cancer Institute

Cancer cells, so wickedly pretty
Photo courtesy: National Cancer Institute

Because I have been spared all this – this genetic DNA mismatch – life is no longer the same. It cannot be the same. Workplace maneuverings are meaningless; daily disappointments cannot bind me, nor the past and all its mistakes chain me in. I have yet to see what I should see, what I think I should see – so blinded by this light of hope, falling to my knees intertwined in gratefulness and sadness.

And so I wait, we wait. I live, we live. Love and lean into the peace that this simply is: our imperfect bodies, our imperfect DNA, our imperfect lives, our unknown blessed futures, unfolding now…