Living at 76 percent

  • Posted: Friday, October 19, 2012 12:01 a.m.
In this 2003 photo, Melissa Peckham (right) stands with her mother, Beth Bischoff Blackwell, who died in 2006 of breast cancer.

Here is my story:

Sitting in the exam room in my hospital gown, I am beginning to think that maybe 24 percent is a small number, when the doctor opens her mouth again:

“Now, this is a lifetime risk, so by the time you are 70 or so, you likely will have had the disease ...”

She trails off. I’m trying to compute those numbers — 24 percent ... 76 percent ... 70 years old ... Talking it over with my husband later that evening, he asks me what I mean by “only living at 76 percent?”

I can’t explain it. You can’t explain what it felt like to see your mom with hair on her head in August when you left for college, only to be greeted by a bald smiling face at Christmas.

You can’t explain what it felt like to receive the phone call twice — “I’ve got cancer” then “It came back.”

And you surely can’t explain what it’s like to panic as they are lowering her body into the ground.

But I CAN explain hope. I CAN explain what it feels like to know my odds, as the daughter of a breast cancer victim, and what to do about it: twice yearly breast MRIs, self-breast exams on a monthly basis, and genetic testing.

I suppose that living life at 76 percent is probably more like living it at 200 percent: bright, bold, ambitious and full of love. Twenty-six years old is too young to allow my life to be diminished to 24 percent.

Melissa Peckham,

Mount Pleasant

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