Not everyone believes in signs, in meant-to-bes, in those who have gone before having a hand in our lives. But I do. And I have said before that my second daughter was one of those things in my life.
There are a few reasons I feel this way:
1. Surprise! Not everyone want to admit their child was not planned to the T, but my baby was not. She blindsided me.
2. The prenatal screenings for the "Jewish panel" changed in those short 2 years between my first and second pregnancy. It was that change that picked up my carrier status for Canavan's disease, forcing my husband and me to undergo genetic counseling and reinforcing my need to pursue BRCA testing, a process I started while still pregnant.
3. My husband and his brother are exactly 2 years and 2 months apart. And since they share a day of the month (the 15th), it's been a running joke. My oldest daughter and my oldest niece are both the 22nd; my sister-in-law and my younger niece are both the 14th. When my baby came into the world, she was born on the 24th, the same day as me, and exactly 2 years, 2 months and 2 days after her older siste.
4. Her birthday falls within ovarian cancer awareness month and leading into HBOC (hereditary breast and ovarian cancer) week.
This week, the teal and the pink come together for awareness of cancers that are due to mutations such as BRCA1, which I carry, and those that haven't yet been found. Everyone should know their risks and, if they are aware, should take whatever measures they wish towad prevention.
Next month, you will hear about early detection and how every woman should get her mammograms. You will hear how that will save lives. And, sure, it will. But how many more lives could be saved before that stage? How many women could avoid the same fates as their ancestors, their grandmothers, aunts, mothers?
So this week, I'd like to draw your attention to your own histories and the questions you should ask yourself:
- Have you or any of your family members been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancers? Have multiple people in your family been diagnosed with either cancer?
- Have you or any of your family members been diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50 or ovarian cancer at any age?
- Are you of Ashkenazi Jewish descent?
There are estimates that 20% or one in five ovarian cancer cases are BRCA related and a majority of BRCA1-related breast cancers are triple-negative, one of the hardest types of cancer to fight. So, to me, those raise big red flags and should be considered as well.
Additionally, that last question that insurance, doctors and genetic counselors do consider is a tough one for me to swallow. You may have heard about the recent call for all women of Jewish descent to be tested. I honestly do not disagree.
But Judaism is a culture that has been to the hell they don't believe in and back so many times that many defected in the process. Today, in our melting pot of a country, who knows who has hidden Jewish roots.
And there are studies showing a Mexican founder mutation within BRCA1, so personal family history weighs supreme to me -- and that's on *both* sides of your family. These mutations can be passed through men for generations and go unnoticed. Don't ignore that.
In this week between September and October, realize that there are families with little to no cancer riddling their trees. If yours looks more like mine, think about it, confront it and know your risk.
Tonight, I went looking for photos of my aunt (passed from ovarian) and my grandmother (passed from breast). In the chest I opened, I found photos of all those taken from me too soon. Clockwise from the top left, my uncle who had an aortic aneurysm (will never know if he was BRCA+), my best friend who developed breast cancer at 25, my grandmother who I never met but died of breast cancer, and my mother-in-law and her cousin, both taken by breast cancer.
It was "random" that there were photos of all of those people in one chest in my house, pictures I didn't even realize I had. But maybe it's what I needed tonight. Maybe it was meant to be.