To have kids or not to have kids

After reading this article, My Sister, My Surrogate, I’m kind of pissed I don’t have a sister (thanks, mom and dad). The article is about a woman, who, like me, got breast cancer at 26 and, like me, froze embryos at the time. But because her cancer was estrogen-positive, her doctors advised her not to get pregnant. That’s when her awesome sister stepped up and said, “Put your babies in my belly!” What a good sister.

While I’m not ready for them just yet, the subject of babies has been causing me some consternation. Having BRCA sucks, so on one hand I am extremely against passing on my own seed lest my daughter or other future female descendant be blessed with the lucky fate I have been blessed with. But when I think about adoption and donated eggs and other alternate ways of having children, I get sad that I might have children who don’t possess the genes that make the Scharf/Tator family so wonderful. Our quirky senses of humor (yeah, Zooey Deschanel, we were quirky before it was cool), our smarts, our big ears, our singing voices, etc.

Which one will die of breast cancer before age 40?

At this point, I’m leaning very heavily toward the first hand – not passing on my genes. I see procreating as letting the gene win, whereas if I adopt or use a donated egg, this BRCA gene stops with me. No more. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

But I’m still debating. I’d be interested to hear from other readers with BRCA who are pre-childbearing – is passing the gene on something that bothers you?


12 thoughts on “To have kids or not to have kids

  1. I thought it was something that bothered me, but the more I think about it, I just… don’t really know if it’s a concern. It’s a game of chance; a kid of mine has a 50/50 chance of having the gene. It’s not 100%. It’s also 50/50 that I’d have a boy vs. a girl – and while boys are also affected by BRCA, it’s not AS much of a concern as for women. Also, by the time I have kids and by the time my kids are grown, it’s certainly possible there will be better ways of dealing with all of this BRCA crap.

    I also feel like I’m glad I was born. I know that if I chose to avoid kids because I don’t want to pass on the gene mutation, they’d never be born and thus never know – but I just feel like even with all the BRCA nonsense in my life, I still think it’s worth being alive and thus I don’t know if it’s necessary to go to such great pains to avoid passing on the gene.

    I don’t know if any of that really makes sense. Either way, I’m not ready for kids yet, so… I may change my mind.

  2. I thought about this a bit before I had my mastectomy. It didn’t shape my decision to have the surgery, but since I was thinking about the future anyway I did consider that question.

    I think, unless I discover that I carry some other awful hereditary disease in addition to BRCA, I will have biological children. While I am not very optimistic that in my lifetime (at least in the next twenty years) there will be a cure for breast cancer, I do have confidence that by the time my future children are older (so in the next 35 years), there will be something that resembles a cure for cancer or a solution to fix what’s broken with the BRCA genes.

    I also think that if BRCA is the only bad gene that my future spawn get, then we’ve done pretty well because at least we can test for it and attack it head-on if necessary. I don’t really know any family that is genetically perfect…if we all stopped having kids because of the possible hereditary conditions that could be passed on, then where would all the kids be? …though that would solve some other issues this planet faces. Hm.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, guys. I wonder if my view is skewed because I’ve actually HAD breast cancer. I don’t know if you, Krys, had it, but TTB I know you are a previvor. Having cancer just really, really sucks a big one, and so I feel like that’s why I have a stronger inclination to not pass on the gene.

    But I definitely hear what you’re both saying – that everything is a risk and we shouldn’t stop having children and of course I was glad to be born! I really do want kids someday and there are alternatives to consider that will still allow babies to be born, just not with my egg 🙂

    Also, dad, I am not sure about preimplantation testing. Even if it was available, I’m not sure I’d want it. Yes, it would be awesome to not pass on my gene, but then I think of all the ethical implications of preimplantation genetics (hello, Gattaca) and it seems ethically blurry.

    1. That totally makes sense. I think that actually having cancer probably does make it seem worse to pass it along. I do really, really hope that by the time our kids are old enough, there will at least be something closer to a cure for this stupid disease.

      I watched Gattaca in HS bio class, too! I barely remember it other than the ending freaked me out.

  4. You’ve definitely got a huge point about having cancer vs. being a previvor. I think my perspective would change a bit if I was in your shoes.

    Oh, Gattaca…memories of high school Bio class!

  5. I am right there with you. I am BRCA+ and we are currently in the process of having a gestational carrier. I went back and fourth and we tried adopting but because we are not married (by choice) we struggled to find someone who would work with us. We ended up with a private adoption, only to have the parents change their mind. Ya…that sucked. So we decided to move forward with gesational carrier. I as well as my mom have had bi-lateral mastectomies and my oopherectomy will be this fall (given the GS gets pregnant). My grandmother had ovarian cancer and is in remission now, but almost all of her sisters died from one form or another before the age of 45. 17 or 19 tested in our family are. BRCA +. Also coming from a family of many people adopted, we deal with not knowing family history, which to me is even more scary. Had my mom never found her birthmom, we would have never known any of this gene history. I like you want children with our traits… Some Call me selfish …but its my choice. 🙂

  6. When I first found out that I was brca2+ when I was 23 I had a very hard time with this. At the time I knew someone who had a male dog that had a genetic defect dealing with one of his balls. The owner wanted their vet to remove just the problem ball and save the other so they could breed it, but the vet said no, that it would be unethical to do that and spread the defect. I found myself wondering how I was any different. Was it unethical for me to potentially pass this on? I soon after found out I was pregnant – a huge surprise – so I never really had to outright make the decision, but like someone else commented, it isn’t 100% that your kids will have it. And as much as this is crazy to deal with I am glad that I am here. I think you are right that it is different since you have had cancer. It is still just an if for me, But a reality for you. Who knows, maybe your kid could grow to be the person who cures cancer, I think we need to give them the chance

  7. I am BRCA1 positive and just had bilateral mastectomies for TNBC earlier this week, and we are freezing embryos in a couple weeks, before I start chemo in late April. We are absolutely going to do genetic screening and only implant embryos thare are BRCA1 negative. My two sisters both have daughters, and are a bit distraught as they wait for their BRCA testing to come back, because they may have already passed this gene on. I have the opportunity to spare my future kids this concern. I see nothing ethically wrong with this at all.

    1. alyca….. not to be invasive or nosey, but may i ask why you had chemo? was this a follow up to further reduce your cancer risk? I just had the test done and am waiting on results. so I am trying to learn as much about my options as possible to be prepared.
      thank you

      1. kneicy – I believe Alyca has cancer and that is why she is having chemo. She said she “just had bilateral mastectomies for TNBC” and TNBC is triple-negative breast cancer, same type that I had.

        Feel free to ask me any questions you’d like once you get your test results – I have the BRCA 1 mutation. My email is caraelyse (at)

  8. I am BRCA 2 and my first mastectomy was at age 29 w chemo. Twenty years later after testing for the gene a MRI found another cancer in my other breast. This one was HER 2 triple positive. I had chemo, and the tumor caused a PE Clot. I still chose to have kids, and recently my 18 yr old daughter opted to get tested. BRCA 2 we are now finding is rampant in our family. My mother, older brother and possibly my daughter all have it. My daughter told me she is happy that I chose to have her, and doesn’t regret being born. Still she is starting to consider her choices on kids, surgery, etc.. It is a personal decision that you and your spouse needs to sit down and really think about. Both my mother and I are still alive both surviving breast cancer twice. Though the whole procedure was horrible it has made me stronger, and I have never felt my mother made the wrong decision to have me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s