Brotherly BRCA

I was under the impression that my older brother had scheduled a BRCA test. But the other day in my dad’s kitchen, I asked if he had it done, and he said no. And that was it. So i’ve been thinking a lot lately about how that’s made me feel.

It’s been well over a year since I got tested for BRCA, yet I’m still the only person in my family that’s had the test. I only have brothers, so I guess to them it’s not as urgent to know their risk. But the brother I spoke with in my dad’s kitchen has two children, one of which is a girl, and I would think that he and his wife (who is in women’s health) would want to know.

My dad has been great throughout this whole process – providing support and researching with me and keeping up on all the news – but I haven’t gotten any of that from my brothers. And I feel as though I have such a large external BRCA network with FORCE and all the blogs I read, but my internal network of family who can relate to what I’m going through is a bit lacking.

On one hand I don’t feel any overwhelming urge to talk about it to my brothers. We’ve never really talked about my mom dying and how that’s affected us, and we aren’t close enough in age to consider ourselves good friends (my oldest brother is 12 years older than me, my middle brother 10). But on the other hand I’m a little ticked off that they’re not eager to participate with me, knowing that we all went through the same experience of losing a mom to breast cancer, and it is something that could potentially affect all of us.

I’m not sure what to do. Most likely I’ll just keep quiet about it. But I’m wondering, since most of what I read is about sister/sister relationships, if anyone has any thoughts on the brother/sister BRCA relationship?

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7 thoughts on “Brotherly BRCA

  1. Great post. My brother hasn’t been tested yet either. I get the sense, from talking to women like us, that with guys it’s not as urgent for them to know. I have to say that it kind of drives me nuts! But, I don’t have any advice about how to confront it, since I’ve taken then same tack — silence. It’s frustrating.

  2. My brother has two young daughters. I haven’t told him yet. I’m still trying to work out exactly what I’m going to say. In my case, it is complicated by the fact that he, along with my very large extended family are all very religious Jews, and I am the “black sheep” around here.

    I did share this information with my first cousins, through another first cousin, because I felt I had an ethical obligation to tell them but no one (out of 40 first cousins) has called me or offered me any support whatsoever. I have decided not to take any of this personally or to make any emotional investment in who does or does not test and not to expect any family “we’re all in this together” comaraderie from them. Some people prefer not to know and it’s their life to live as they choose to live it. Indeed, one of my cousins, a truly lovely woman, is the 50 year old daughter of my aunt who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53. She is a deeply religious woman and she refuses to test or even to go to a high risk doc for surveillance. Short of begging her on my hands and knees, there is nothing more that I can do.

    At least we all have each other.

  3. You can’t make someone do something they fear. You can put the info out there, send them links to info, but don’t expect much back. Neither of my brothers have tested nor said anything about the info I send them. I won’t give up sending the info, but I don’t expect them to respond. It’s sad.

    http://www.twitter.com/ThePrevivors

  4. I have four brothers… no one has seemed very concerned about testing them. However, I inherited the gene from my grandfather…who also died from cancer, so the risk is still there for them and definitely for their daughters.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone. I know the risk is there for my brothers, so perhaps I should consider urging them a few more times to get tested, or giving them some honest and endearing reasons as to why it would make me feel better if they got tested. I’ll let you know how it goes (if it goes!).

  6. I have two brothers, no sisters. Neither of them have been tested yet. One of them flat out does not want to know, and the other says that the next time he gets a physical he’ll ask for the test. I do also get the idea that they don’t seem to think that it really affects them, since they are men. I have two sons and I worry that I may have passed my mutation on to them, but as they are too young to test, it’ll be a long while before I know…
    Teri S.

  7. I also have a brother and really empathize with your feelings. I haven’t spoke with my brother directly about our mother’s BRCA+ results, but I talked with his wife. I think my sister-in-law appreciated that it is a significant piece of information. I assume that she has talked to him by now, even though I haven’t heard anything back from them. But, to be honest, I don’t expect that my brother will give this a lot of thought. I feel somewhat frustrated by this and his reaction (or lack of) to my mother’s recent diagnosis. We are close and I kind of was hoping for him to better acknowledge what’s going on here. But it’s not that I blame him for having a different reaction than me. I guess like you have found, it’s just a complicated feeling.

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