I was up late recently watching a TV program about the experiences of several young mothers who had tested positive for the BCRA gene, the so called ” breast cancer gene”. I learned that women who have inherited two copies of this gene have a 85/100 chance of having breast cancer in their lifetime. It is not possible for a woman to know with certainty if she has inherited the BCRA gene without having an elective test performed. Some women decide to not have the test and live with the uncertainty. Other women have the test and, if they have copies of the gene, they may elect to have a double mastectomy operation to significantly reduce their chances of having breast cancer in the future. The program went on to tell the stories of the women who had inherited the gene and subsequently elected to have both breasts removed. The technique used to present these woman’s stories was that of letting the story be told using the voices of the women without undue comments by others. This technique was very effective as far as I was concerned as I vicariously shared their anguish. At one point in the program, where the woman was receiving the results of her gene test, I suddenly burst into tears and I cried for several minutes. As I look back on this episode, I was reliving the time in Patty’s Doctor’s office when she was telling us that Patty had breast cancer. Patty’s response, after the initial shock passed, was along the lines of: OK, I have breast cancer! what do we do next? This ‘matter of fact’ attitude about the twists and turns of our lives was typical of her. She was the rock to which our family was anchored. She really was a ‘one of a kind’ person and I feel very lucky that she choose me to be her companion for the 66 years of our marriage.

PATTY JOHNSON 1932 – 2017


I am 89 years old and was married for 66 years. My wife passed away in 2016. I am a retired engineer and spent 35 years developing INS gyroscopes. I was a High School mentor in physics, a mountaineer, a model builder, a machinist and I have a degree in Physics. My interests include railroad history and photography, science history, cosmology, interesting people, and old engineering drawings. I place a high value on my friendships. I enjoying my life and I try look forward with a sense of anticipation and curiosity about what my future has in store for me.


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