Most women who experience breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. This often leaves them feeling shocked with their diagnosis. Sometimes they even feel alone, scared, and frustrated. For me, as I started my diagnosis process, the news was not a shock. I was not saddened by the news. In fact, I felt fairly calm during the whole thing. Why? Because I had a significant family history.
My family history, I feel, prepared me for my journey. While I was growing up, watching the women I love suffer through the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, I started thinking of my future. What would my chances be getting this horrible disease that affects 1 in 8 women? I saw my chances pretty high. If there was a gene that plays a contributing factor, I was positive I would get it. After all, I have seemed to inherit all the unwanted genes – acne-prone skin, deteriorating eye sight, the need for braces, and more. I was bound to get that breast cancer gene too.
Due to my feelings towards breast cancer and the family history, I had an unfortunately outlook on life. I often said “when I get cancer” not “if.” However, because of those feelings, I made sure I stayed current on my mammograms. Starting them early was imperative to me. Knowing the diagnosis was in my future, I wanted it to be caught at the first sign of anything. Early detection was important to me.
To this day, I find it hard to say, “I’m glad my family has a history.” I’m not really glad about cancer – how could one truly be glad about it? But, I am blessed that I have that history. Without it, I wouldn’t have had my first mammogram until the age of forty. By that time, cancer would have been growing in my body for seven years undetected. Without the family history, I would have felt alone since (at that time) I didn’t know anyone outside of my family who had breast cancer. Without the knowledge of the process I would have been frightened at the first mention of needing further images. Without that history, we wouldn’t be four strong women who have a drive and a passion to see an end to breast cancer.
I’m thankful for many things, my family being one of them. My grandma, mom, sister, and I have proven that cancer is not always a death sentence. Between the four of us women, there have been eight occurrences of breast cancer. To me, it’s pretty spectacular that we are all here today. We’ve seen cancer come knocking on the door. We stared it down and beat it. My family history of breast cancer not only shows how many people can be affected, but it shows great strength to beat this together. I’m walking on this Earth, arm-in-arm, with three other amazing women. I am so blessed and thankful for them.
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