“Three separate times in the last year I’ve convinced myself that I had cancer. A swelling in my scrotum recently had me freaking out, rushing in for an ultrasound. It was surely testicular cancer.
I got the ultrasound on a Friday, and I was dreading having to wait until Monday for the results. But then, as I was walking from the clinic back to the subway, an email with the results popped up on my phone. I was like: ‘Oh boy. This is it. Tell me how it’s going to be.’
It was just a hydrocele. A little bit of fluid. Nothing to worry about. I laugh about it now. But at the same time, I fear that I’m going to repeat this cycle of convincing myself I have cancer, freaking out, and then finding out it’s nothing. Until one day it’s not.
“I’ve always figured that one day the cancer would come.”
Everyone lives under the spectre of cancer, but it’s different for people with Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS). It’s a rare genetic condition that greatly increases your risk for cancer.
I’ve always figured that one day the cancer would come. I’m 26 years old now, and it hasn’t yet, but people with LFS need to always be vigilant. My mom, who I inherited the LFS from, has had a bunch of different cancers since she was 24. My sister was diagnosed with leukemia a couple years ago when she was in the ninth grade. My cousin Marco developed a rare soft tissue cancer when he was three, and passed away two years later on his fifth birthday.
These occurrences have forced me to confront the idea of mortality at a relatively young age, but I don’t allow the fear of cancer to inhibit me in my day-to-day life. Being diagnosed with LFS is an objective fact about me, and that’s about it — aside from regular screening and sometimes convincing myself I have something that’s not truly there, it has no bearing on how I live my life.
My mom has never let cancer slow her down. My sister is cancer-free today and is doing flawlessly in school. In this family, cancer is a fact of life, but it’s not the only fact. I think about my future in the same way as anyone else. I have plans. I’m going to be a teacher. I’m going to get married. I’m going to build the life I want.
And if cancer comes, it comes.”