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Friday, January 16, 2015


"Emily, there's something genetic going on here, we just don't know what it is." Said every oncologist, nurse, surgeon, genetic counselor ever. Me, with breast cancer at 28, with my only two paternal aunts also getting it young. Paternal grandmother with pancreatic cancer. 

I've done all the genetic tests, even ones I was cautioned against. I just wanted to know. But nothing came back.

Sometimes, and idea comes to me and I panic: I haven't talked to my three youngest sisters about their risk of breast cancer. I haven't protected them from this beast, in the only way I can.

But then I remember. I don't need to give them information on mammograms and MRIs, like I do with my sister Miranda. My sisters Lizzie, Olivia, and Nellie aren't at risk for the same inherited diseases I am. Because they were born in a different country, to different parents. The things they inherited from their immediate family are different from the things I inherited. And I am so, so relieved. They are safer, from this one, than I was.

(I struggled a lot with how to say that. At first I thought maybe I should say we don't share genetics. But that's ridiculous, because all humans are 99.9% the same.)

I am a lifetime big sister. Miranda was born when I was 4, and Lizzie came home when I was 10. I was 14 for Olivia, and the ripe old age of 20 when Nellie was adopted.

You might be wondering why I bring this up. Well, this weekend the Times has run a story that feels... not good. It focuses on Korean adoptees who return to Korea, and advocate for the eradication of international adoption. The article offers no counter point to their argument.

Everyone experiences things in their own way (damn if I don't know that) and adoption is no different, so I'm not begrudging the adoptees profiled. I am pretty pissed off that The New York fucking Times would print such a one-sided and frankly irresponsible thing.

Thank God for Laura Clise's beautiful essay in Medium, which stopped my head from spinning off into the abyss. She writes, "Love is what makes a family. Love that transcends national origin, sexual orientation, or other differences — love through life’s challenges and disappointments."


We are a beautiful and crazy bunch, full of giggles and fights and nicknames and love so fierce it defies you to fuck with it. To say it should never have happened. 

I have biological family that I don't know, that I don't speak to, that didn't give a fuck about me when I was sick. These, according to some, are supposed to be the people who I look to to understand myself. Not Olivia, who at 17, was in the room when I was diagnosed, and was the only one to laugh at my pathetic jokes on the way home. 

We are sisters, in defiance of borders. We always have been, always were. Always will. Nothing can ever change that.

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