I am Oneinforty, and I never wanted to be. I grew up in a wonderful family, but it always felt like we were being followed by cancer. Because we were.
My father is the only living member in his immediate family. They have all died of various cancers, and as a child I saw my favorite people lose battle after battle.
I wanted no part in it. I became superstitious. I wouldn’t even leave family events without saying goodbye to everyone twice. I was sure tragedy was following us wherever we went. I had a seriousness about life that my peers lacked.
Then my father discovered he was positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation, and he was thrilled. Suddenly, his family wasn’t just riddled with bad luck - there was a reason. After finding out there was a cause, he felt calmer and more hopeful about a possible solution.
I wasn’t as impressed. I was 25 I wanted to live my life. I had just moved to New York City and was having the time of my life as a nanny and improviser, with high hopes of one day affording a rental apartment with a dishwasher (still waiting for that).
My father wanted me to get tested immediately. I refused. I didn't want any more connections to cancer. If I was diagnosed BRCA positive, the next diagnosis would surely be cancer. I pushed back and partied hard trying to distract myself from my greatest fears.
It became clear pretty soon that my actions were only causing my father more anxiety than I could have imagined. He believed that if I did test positive, I would then be able to get better screenings and preventive measures against cancers. I believed that if I tested positive I would lose my mind. We were both right.
After I went in certain I had a gluten allergy (the most popular allergy of 2010), my doctor suggested I get the BRCA genetic test based on my family history, and I finally surrendered.
The tests came back positive, and my father couldn’t wait for me to start taking care of myself. I couldn't wait to get a drink. And I did. I drank my fears under the table. I partied to avoid my doctor appointments and drank to avoid my reality. I didn’t want to get special screenings, get any more MRIs, or talk about breast and ovarian cancer. So I hid.
It wasn’t a great plan because aggressive drinking didn’t make my life any better. Once I sobered up and was able to truly take care of myself, I could think about my diagnosis more clearly. And about two years later, I decided a preventative double mastectomy was right for me.
It was a long journey, I didn’t arrive at my decision quickly. Now, I am thankful for that. By taking time to make mistakes and make major life changes, I was able to take the next step. Having a mastectomy meant I could put my family history of breast cancer behind me, and I felt relief. My father would be forever changed as well. He no longer had to live in fear I would be the next family member to be diagnosed, and finally he has found a little peace.
Caitlin Brodnick is a performer on Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre's Maude Night. She performs sketch, standup, and storytelling regularly in New York City and Los Angeles. She is a writer for Glamour.com, and a blogger for Huffington Post. Her stories have been featured on the MOTH podcast, and quoted by the AV Club. As a breast cancer awareness advocate, and she has been invited to speak at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and various locations in New York City.
Caitlin works closely with the organization FORCE, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital as a breast cancer awareness advocate, helping to connect with other women who are BRCA positive.
Caitlin created and starred in the docu-series with Condé Nast Entertainment and Glamour.com, Screw You Cancer. Screw You Cancer won a National Magazine Honors Award ASME for excellence in new media. She is also an honoree of the Seventh Annual Television Academy Honors, for using the power of television and video media to bring awareness to important social issues.
She is proud to take on the public role as a representative of BRCA testing and cancer prevention.
Caitlin is also a sober living advocate and volunteers with various organizations around the city to help support others working through their addictions. Caitlin lives in New York City with her husband and will probably offer to show you pictures of her puppy.