Holidays and Your Family Medical History

The Holidays and Your Family Medical History

In Breast Cancer, Creating Happiness, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

With another holiday season on the horizon, we are all busy making our plans to get together with our families once again. If your get-togethers are anything like mine, the women end up in the kitchen making food preparations and catching up on everyone else’s news while the guys are probably watching a sporting event together in another room. And while we women are quite capable of sharing our most intimate secrets with our moms and sisters and aunts and cousins, we most like do not share what might be the most important information of all with one another and that’s our family’s medical history.

…it is my holiday wish that every woman who is fortunate enough to share this time of the year with a female family member that you give her the greatest gift of all. It won’t cost you anything but may end up saving a life. Give your family member the gift of sharing everything that you know about the family’s medical history. Barbara Jacoby

I can’t tell you how many times we have been together over the years and talked and laughed and shared with each other into the wee small hours of the morning. But, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and asked about my family’s history, I was aware that one of my aunts and her daughter both had lost their lives to breast cancer but I knew nothing more.  And as my mother and her other sister were no longer living and I never knew my maternal grandmother because she died when my mom was 15, I never knew anything about her family’s history.

On my father’s side of the family, my grandmother and her sisters had all passed away and I barely knew anything about my cousins on that side of the family since the family was never close so the more I thought about it, I realized that while I had done my best to provide information, I just didn’t have it to share. After all, you didn’t talk about such things in my mother’s generation, as health matters were strictly private and certainly never discussed with the “kids”. And for that matter, at that time, if you had breast cancer, you most likely had little to no chance of surviving without some sort of a miracle.

Even now, most of us know that the word “cancer” is seldom spoken unless it is absolutely necessary. However, we don’t realize what a disservice we are doing to the women in our families by not having this discussion. I didn’t know about the medical experiences of my aunt and cousin and I knew nothing about my father’s side of the family with regard to cancer or any other medical conditions that may have been a part of their families’ histories and for that I have many regrets. But, now that there is so much more open discussion, mostly because of the world of social media, we have now reached the point where these talks should definitely be easier and something that we are smart enough to recognize that we need. After all, the diagnostic tools and treatments that have been discovered over the years have made a substantial difference for so many so the more we know, the better are our chances for longer and healthier lives.

Therefore, it is my holiday wish that every woman who is fortunate enough to share this time of the year with a female family member that you give her the greatest gift of all. It won’t cost you anything but may end up saving a life. Give your family member the gift of sharing everything that you know about the family’s medical history. Share with her if you know that someone has had breast cancer in generations past. Don’t hesitate to let her know if you have had any problems or scares from your own medical tests. Ask her whether she has any knowledge regarding health matters of others in your family.  It might not be easy to start this dialogue but you might find that it may ultimately be one of the greatest ones you will ever have. And hopefully, it may be the beginning for further sharing in your own family as well as encouraging your friends to do the same with their families. You will be glad that you did.