Tuesday, November 24, 2009

what you can do this Thanksgiving

Many people spend the holidays with family, whether they like it or not. Old stories are told over again. Everyone knows about the crazy sister who dances on tables at weddings or the time their cousin got wasted before his wedding started or their mom got arrested for running away from home. But maybe you should spend this thanksgiving learning the important stuff. You may have a copy of your family tree tucked away somewhere but do you know your family history? I am finding out how important it is to know what lurks behind those closet doors. I'm not just talking about cancer and I'm not just talking to brca+ people. This applies to all of you. Start gathering information about your families. Start with your siblings and parents. What ails them? Is it as simple as a hernia? Write it down. Include the age at onset and what was done to correct it. Diabetes, asthma, migraines, macular degeneration, high blood pressure, age at death, kidney stones etc. Colonoscopys? Your parents have probably all had one by now. Find out if they've had any polyps, how many and what kind, what age found and write it down. Then move on to your extended family and go as far back as possible. Keep a chart and update it as new things occur. Somehow share this with your extended family. Maybe the family history should be something you include every year with that holiday card you send out to the family.

Now that you have this information take a look at it. Take it to your doctor and actually discuss it with her/him. I always fill out the family history when I see a new doc (what I knew of it) but never took the time to talk about it with them and they never brought it up. My appointments were strictly focused on the task at hand. At times I wondered what my risks were since I knew there were cancers on both sides of my family but I guess I figured there was nothing I could do about it but wait it out until I got something. Often times there are a lot of measures you can take for what runs in your family. Very important to see your eye dr every year if you have things like macular degeneration in the family. It is so much better to catch those things early and start treatment. And the colon polyps. Turns out mine was tubular adenoma. One was nothing but the larger one (12mm) was precancerous and who knows what it would have been in 9 years if I had waited until 50 like the general population to get my first colonoscopy. BRCA saved my butt, literally, on that one and quite frankly on my health in general. It is a wake up call to start acting my age and taking charge of my health. Don't wait for something to happen to you or for your doctor to ask you the right question. Take the time to learn your history and take some proactive measures.


  1. OMG, Janine! I'm sooo glad that you had that procedure done now! So glad that you are smart enough and conscious enough to be so proactive!

  2. Wondertwin, you are my hero.