Diseases / Faith & Doubt / Family / Relationships

Cancer Lottery

A single lymphocyte

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

I’ve been saved.

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

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 a year apart (so-called “Irish twins”), I cannot bear to see the pain my nearly-twin sister bears, and yet she absorbs this genetic injustice with wisdom, compassion, and grace.

She, with her husband, sons, job, friends, home, and faith – she has so much to live for, leaning into hope even as her hair falls out again, her legs ache with blood clots again, her skin tingly and numb, fighting infection after infection in her chemo-weakened immune system once again, and a body scarred from radiation and 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 credit: 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 hold no sway; daily disappointments cannot bind me, nor can the past and all its regrets chain me in. I have yet to see what I think I should see, what I think I might see – so blinded by this light of grace, falling to my knees intertwined in gratefulness and mingling 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…