Monday, April 11, 2016

Family History

I do not have a family history of cancer. My father was diagnosed with lymphoma at age 85. A maternal aunt died of a blood cancer at age 78. Both my grandfather's died of cancer - one of prostate cancer and one of gall bladder cancer, in their 80s. Some of my great aunts and uncles who smoked died of cancer as well. But none were very young and they were smokers. 

The definition of family history of cancer is:

"You may have a strong family history if any of the following situations apply to you:
  • More than 2 close relatives on the same side of your family have had cancer – the same side of your family means either your father’s relatives or your mother’s relatives
  • The relatives have had the same type of cancer, or different cancers that can be caused by the same gene fault
  • The cancers developed when the family members were young, below the age of 50
  • One of your relatives has had a gene fault found by genetic tests
It is important to remember that cancer is most common in people over the age of 60 and is rarer in young people. So cancer in older people is less likely to be due to an inherited cancer gene."

Then along came me: first cancer at age 19 and second at age 45. How did that happen? Who knows. The one thing I have learned, through lots of therapy and support groups, is that I can't beat myself up about it.

(It is important to remember in life that nothing that happened can be undone, and unless you intentionally did something, do not blame yourself. You can blame your lung cancer on your chain smoking or your skin cancer on your tanning bed addiction but otherwise skip the self blame.)

But I digress. Most cancers are not from family history. Despite all the publicity about the BRCA genes, something like less than 10% of breast cancer cases are attributed to them. There is also an obscure genetic mutation called Cowden's Syndrome, which has thyroid cancer and breast cancer as symptoms. But I don't have that.

So basically I do not have a family history of cancer and some how I got the short straw. We have no idea how I ended up this (un)healthy. I don't really care how this happened and I am not going to waste any more energy on stressing about it. The unfortunate part is that I now have an increased risk of getting another cancer.

I did inherit other things from my parents. I have my father's hair - his is not yet completely gray at almost 88, and I get to gloat at my siblings and their gray hair. But I did also get my mother's rheumatoid arthritis. Damn.

1 comment:

Vanessa J. Gilliam said...

Admin, if not okay please remove!

Our facebook group “selfless” is spending this month spreading awareness on prostate cancer & research with a custom t-shirt design. Purchase proceeds will go to cancer.org, as listed on the shirt and shirt design.

Thanks

www.teespring.com/prostate-cancer-research