Before surgery

Doctor Beth Karlan (left) says, "Your dad is with us, from above," to Anna Gorman in the pre-op before her hysterectomy/ oophorectomy. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / November 1, 2006)

Through the fog of anesthesia, I remember feeling overwhelming relief.

But when the medication wore off, I realized it was far from over. I still had the genetic mutation. And I still had to worry about other cancers, including the one that killed my father.

I wished I could call my dad. Being in the hospital reminded me so much of his illness.

I called home. My sister put Sadie on the phone. "Hi, Mommy," she said in a sweet, raspy voice. "I love you."

My eyes filled with tears.

When I got home, Sadie came running to me with a flower from our garden. Twyla waved her arms like a little bird.

My daughters, of course, will not remember that day. I will never forget it.

Days later, I got the call I was waiting for: I didn't have cancer.

For a few weeks, I mostly stayed in bed. Sadie brushed my hair and brought me Band-Aids for my "boo-boos." Twyla slept on my chest.

I decided I wasn't ready for menopause. So I started a low dose of estrogen, through a small, clear patch. The hormone increases my risk of breast cancer, so I don't plan to stay on it long.

I have started considering a preventive mastectomy, though I still find it a much harder decision than removal of my ovaries.

I would like to say that I have put some of my grief behind me now that I have fulfilled my father's wish. But it's not that easy. I miss him terribly. I would give anything to see him playing with Sadie, now just over 2, and Twyla, 8 months.

My greatest fear now is that I have passed this deadly genetic flaw on to them. The odds are 50-50.

When I look at my daughters, I see myself. I see my father. I hope, with everything in me, that they don't share this part of us.

If they share anything, let it be our broad smiles and our love of words.



BRCA genetic mutations

There are two types of BRCA genetic mutations, numbered 1 and 2, which increase the risks of cancer.