{legacy} the heritage of hereditary cancer

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In my father's family I have a line of grandmothers of various great-nesses that all passed away from ovarian cancer, back to the times before the could diagnose cancer and they were diagnosed with "troubles of the abdomen". Luckily in the early 90's Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah pinpointed the BRCA gene mutations that greatly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Somehow, the High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic at Huntsman Cancer Institute became aware of our family history and invited my dad and other family members to participate in their research trial and have the genetic testing done for free. This was in the mid 90s shortly after the gene was discovered.

You have to understand a little bit about my dad. He hates doctors. He will avoid them at all costs. He's also a kind of shy guy. That is one of the many things I inherited that from him that make me who I am. I've never asked him why he agreed to do it, but I can only assume that he was thinking of his mom, who died when he was 13, and his three daughters when he did. I want him to know that I love him for doing it. Hopefully one day I will get up the courage to tell him that.

Now that I have a daughter of my own and dreams of having more boys and girls join our family, I see this heritage I have in a new way.

I was asked if having a positive diagnosis would affect my choices about whether to have children or the size of my family. There are important things to think about and decisions to be made, but it never crossed my mind to not have children. I have an incredible and beautiful life including a wonderful childhood with my mom and dad, and now a family of my own and I want to help grant that blessing to other spirit children of God. The world is full of challenges, every life has tests. However, it changes the way you think when you know what one of those tests will be for some of your children. So no, it doesn't change our choice to have children, just the timing.

Though BRCA doesn't define me or any of the women in my geneology, it has helped to form us into who we are or who they were. It's part of my heritage and one of many things that have given me strength and solidified my faith in a Heavenly Father who loves us. I understand a little bit better how He might have felt knowing all the challenges we would face, but sending us here anyways. He did so because he knew that the joy and happiness in this life, especially the happiness we can find with our families, far outweighs the challenges. That's how I feel about my daughters and grand daughters. I've already had so much joy filled in these last 12 months with her, I could never imagine my life without her.

So in the end my heritage isn't just a mutated gene or a family history of breast and ovarian cancer. It is really one of strength and faith and happiness. And if I choose to, that can be my daughter's heritage as well.

*Blessed since writing this :) A couple days after writing this post I spoke to my dad about our family history and he shared a lot more of our heritage with me. I also got the chance to thank him for the chance to know that I carry this gene mutation and to be able to take action in my life instead of just reacting. He then told me that I am bright, brilliant, and lovable. I'll carry those words around with me forever.

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  1. I loved your addition at the end. Every daughter should be told they are bright, brilliant, and lovable!


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