And So I Wear A Mask

And So I Wear A Mask

With Purim quickly approaching, I can’t help but think of the custom of wearing costumes and masks. I love this tradition on Purim since we eagerly shed our daily masks for one contrary to our own as we celebrate our survival.

For over a year now my daily mask has changed and I have become more withdrawn. How could I let all those around me learn of my deep dark fear? My mother wore a similar mask until about 8 years ago when she could finally breathe – when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her father and his 10 siblings endured breast cancer. My mother lived not knowing when she too would be faced with the diagnosis.

With her family history and being BRCA negative there had to be a missing piece, a gene yet to be identified. That missing gene was recently discovered. My mother, who always wanted to connect the missing piece in the puzzle of her genetic history, was thrilled when she was found to have the CHEK2 mutation.  It put a face or reason to what plagued our family.

And so I got tested.

I too carry the mutation.

With this startling information, I now have an anvil hanging over me. How do I continue knowing what I know? Will I end up with cancer?

No one talks of this. We have no guide for this path.

And so I wear a mask.

Last Purim I spoke with my breast specialist, who had diagnosed my mother, after my CHEK2 mutation was identified and had undergone MRI’s and biopsies. Her interpretation of my personal genetic map was without a doubt one that would end in breast cancer.

The weight was lifted. My difficult choice to have a prophylactic double mastectomy was validated.

I was finally able to breathe.


I hung up the phone, thanked God for this amazing world in which we live, dried my tears and joined my family to celebrate Purim, mask back in place.