October 14, 2013

Baldness is Golden

I realize this may seem a bit of a stretch, but I thought we'd celebrate Be Bald and Free Day here on Diggin' for Clues. Walk with me, and I'll explain.

This time last year I was totally bald. I'd just finished treatment for breast cancer and I was marching toward a bi-lateral mastectomy. I can personally attest that baldness is freeing in many ways. Now, a year down the road, I'm recovering quickly and putting the ugliness behind me.

However, I've been struck by how many of my ancestors died from cancer. Talk about running in the family!  If simply having a family history of cancer of any sort put me line for breast AND ovarian cancer, then I came by it honestly.

  • My mom, Ann Gladys ALLEN STANCIL, had stomach, lung, liver, and kidney cancer. 
  • Her sister, Grace Elizabeth ALLEN LEE, had breast cancer.
  • My first cousin, Brenda GLOVER MARCOM, died from ovarian cancer.
  • My maternal grandmother, Ethel DAVIS ALLEN, died from pancreatic cancer.
  • My paternal grandmother, Ada Lou JOHNSON STANCIL, died from ovarian cancer. 
  • My great aunt, Meona DAVIS, died from thyroid cancer.
I am sure there were many more, perhaps undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in the time before modern medical practices. 

An important point here is around genetic testing. BRCA1 gene mutation points toward a ridiculously high opportunity for breast and ovarian cancer. BINGO!  Along with my grandmother's silk nightcap and my dad's Purple Heart, I inherited my breast and ovarian cancer. Gee, thanks, mom and dad.

Along with memories and quirky personality traits, our families can leave us with very serious health issues that - luckily - can be discovered via genetic testing and early diagnosis. I'm sitting here this morning writing this blog post thanks to both. That's genetic testing and early diagnosis, of course. Certainly no quirky personality traits here! Right.

If you have a family history of ANY SORT of cancer, please please consider getting the test to diagnose BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations. A BRCA1 mutation leaves you with a whopping 75% chance of developing breast cancer in your lifetime. And a 50% chance of ovarian cancer. If you have a family history, it's likely your insurance company will pay for the test. It's a simple blood test. Better to know than not know to make informed decisions. 

Unlike my great aunt Meona. She could not have known she would develop thyroid cancer in 1964. Good thing we live in the 21st century where we can document our family's story on a computer AND discover if we are next in line for cancer.

So while we are busy doing our DNA tests to determine our ancestry, be sure to do the test that could ensure your future. Your great grandchildren will thank you.

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