Most parents worry about having “the Talk” with their children. “The Talk” I worry about is different. Sure, I will have to explain the birds and the bees to my son someday (or better yet, his father will!), but it will include a very stern warning about using appropriate birth control. If Owen and a young woman conceive a child someday, the child has a 50% chance of inheriting Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia 2a from Owen, just like he got it from me. I suppose this works to our advantage because maybe it will scare him enough to refrain from sex until he’s ready to have a baby. So there’s an upside. And who knows, hopefully by then there will be amazing medical advances that can prevent him from passing on the gene, similar to the IVF with preimplantation genetic diagnosis that we are hoping to attempt.
For me, “the Talk” also means something else. It means the times when I will talk to Owen about our disease. We have already told him that he had his thyroid taken out because he had cancer, which is true (he was already developing medullary thyroid cancer cells at three years old), and he knows about Mommy’s “owies” too. But how do I explain to him about the tumors that he may grow when he is older without terrifying him? He will ask many questions, and I suppose I will always try my best to answer honestly but without fear in my voice. I never want him to be afraid of what he will face, which is motivation for me to attack scary situations as bravely as I can. But the truth is, it sucks. A lot. It sucks so much that I’m going to try IVF to prevent passing it on to anyone else. Owen and I will be bonded by this disease in a way that no parent ever wants to bond with their child. I know it would’ve changed my childhood tremendously had I known at a young age about my disease. I would’ve been terrified all the time, felt different, and at that time so little was known that I would’ve received sub-par treatment. But Owen is already braver than I will ever be, and he is my inspiration to be brave every day. I just hope someday he finds it in his heart to forgive me for giving him the wrong letter in his DNA. As he says nearly every day, “I didn’t mean to.”