At a recent gynecology appointment I sat down with the nurse. As she was asking me if there were any changes to my family history I took a deep breath and said yes. My mom’s uncle was diagnosed with metastatic cancer a few weeks earlier and passed away the morning of my appointment.
I watched her enter the new information. I saw the long list of cancer grow another row. My heart began to beat a little faster as the realization that cancer truly runs rampant in our family. Why is that? Is there a gene that makes the family extremely susceptible to cancer? Could it have been toxins from the paper mill they all grew up around? I don’t have any clue to the answer, but one day I hope to.
If I look at my family history, I see cancer on both sides. We have colon and stomach cancer, cancer of the uterus, and far too many cases of breast cancer. Out of all of that, inherited cancer only makes up about 5-10% of all cancers. I look at that history and I think, “Man, the odds look good, but are they really in my favor?” Two of those deal with the intestinal track and the other two are “women” issues. My main concern is the breast cancer on my mother’s side of the family.
Almost three years ago, I added a notch to the breast cancer family tally. It wasn’t the highlight of my life, that’s for sure. However, I am thankful for that diagnosis because it forced my sister to get checked out. A year later, she added her notch to the breast cancer tally. With our diagnoses, we knew there had to be a gene involved. Three negative BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 tests later, we’re left confused and wondering what type of unknown gene mutation we have.
We’ve donated our blood to science for a gene study of over twenty mutations. In the next year, we hope to hear some news. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a confirmation of some kind of gene mutation. As a mother, I’m more concerned about my daughter’s future than my own. This study could mean everything to our family.
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