I had an interesting conversation with my mom yesterday. She brought up my blog and mentioned the fact that I expressed surprise at my diagnosis of cancer because of the lack of family history. Then she proceeded to inform me that my paternal grandmother, two paternal uncles and one paternal aunt all died of cancer, in addition to the maternal uncle I was aware of, who died of elderly leukemia.
Ok, wow. Now, just to be clear, my parents are still married (over 50 years, in fact!) This isn’t a case where I have a missing dad and we don’t have much information or anything. My dad is, however, a late-in-life baby whose siblings were already parents when he was born, and his mother died when he was very young, so I’ve never known a lot of his side as well as I knew my mom’s family.
Not surprisingly, I was a bit taken back. I said “I never knew any of that”, and Mom said, “Well, I guess we just never talked about it”. And that’s true. We didn’t talk about things like that, old history, especially bad things. We didn’t dwell in past problems. There wasn’t any good point to it.
Except with some things there is.
My point, and I’m sure you’ve gotten it by now, is don’t assume anything. Don’t be sure you don’t have a family history of cancer or heart disease or diabetes just because you haven’t heard about it. Ask questions. Poke a little. Take care of your own self.
I was very blessed – I had a stomachache that my doctor still can’t explain, but the ensuing scan for gallbladder led to the discovery of my lymphoma, and at a very early, treatable stage. If that hadn’t happened, it could have gone on for a long time before being discovered, and I could be looking at a very different outcome. It never crossed my mind to be concerned for cancer or to watch for signs or discuss it with my doctor. I was so comfortable with my “great gene pool” that kept me so safe.
I didn’t get this kind of warning, someone telling me maybe I didn’t have all the information. And maybe you do. Maybe you know everything there is to know about your family health background. But, just maybe you don’t.
With love from me to you… Ask some questions, just to be sure.