I spit in a vial today, and sent it off in the mail.
In about four weeks, I’ll find out if I have some kind of gene mutation.
That makes me think of X-men. Like, if my genes are mutated, maybe I’ll suddenly start levitating one day. Or leaping buildings with a single bound. Or something like that.
Maybe I’m mixing my superhero metaphores.
It’s not that kind of mutation, anyway. My spit, somehow, will be able to tell my doctor if I’m genetically predisposed to breast cancer. It’s called a BRCA1 and BRCA2 test.
I have no idea how it works and I’m not even going to try to explain it to you. I don’t want to do that kind of research. In fact, I’m having a hard time even remembering that this test is sitting in a blue box down the street, in front of the Subway sandwich shop and the Wells Fargo ATM I sometimes stop at when I need cash.
It’s sitting there. And my brain keeps skipping over it, like a stone across a river. It’s too hard to let it sink. Too scary.
Maybe my spit is going to tell my doctor that my BRAC1 and/or BRAC2 are mutated. Or will mutate. Or something like that. And if it does, then there’s a higher chance than every woman’s regular chance that I’ll get breast cancer and die.
Like my mother. She was 47 when she got sick. I’m 46. The test site said I should have the test if anyone in my family was diagnosed with breast cancer before age fifty.
Like my grandmother. She was in her sixties. Also, she’s my dad’s mom. Only one female relative on each side. That’s safer, isn’t it? Except my mom’s mom died of ovarian cancer, and it seemed on the website like there’s some connection.
Is the breast bone connected to the ovarian bone?
I ate Mother’s Day chocolates from Sees while I read the instructions. Spit into the funnel. Put the cap on the tube. Put the tube in the baggie. Put the baggie in the box. Put the box in the blue box.
I had to tell Alexa to set a 30 minute timer and then remind myself not to eat or drink or chew gum until it went off. They don’t want chocolatey spit.
I spit in a tube — to the fill line, bubbles don’t count — and the tube is sitting in the mail box. And in four weeks, I’ll know if I’m a mutant.
And then what? A doctor’s appointment. Tears. A plan, hopefully. If I can figure out a way to pay for it, my breasts removed and reconstructed. Off with those things. Off with them.
I remember how frail my mother was when she died. How small she looked in her hospice bed. She had breast cancer — in her lungs and brain and pretty much everywhere else.
I remember how she was excited, a few months earlier, because she’d never been so thin. She could fit into my teenage brother’s old jeans.
My sister took the spit test. Or maybe she took a blood test? I know she didn’t have to send it in the mail. They gave it to her at the place in Boise where she has her annual mammogram.
She is not an X-man. No mutation.
Does that mean I am? Our mother only had two daughters. Is it 50/50 and Jill got the good half?
I’m pretty sure that’s not how this works.
Why didn’t I pay more attention in biology class? There was something about the color of corn kernels that seems relevant to my two a.m. monkey brain.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nationand the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.