Nobody should suffer and die of a preventable cancer. And no family should have to watch helplessly as a beautiful life is cruelly consumed by an avoidable disease and then have to bear the nearly unbearable grief of that loss for the rest of their lives.
On a summer evening in June 2021, I embraced Donna, my beautiful wife of 40 years,
as she took her last breath. Having the love of your life die in your
arms from cancer is not romantic. It is one of the most unimaginably
awful, painful and traumatic events anyone should have to endure. It is
having to bear the unbearable.
That's why I have become a hereditary cancer awareness and prevention advocate.
Because my wife died an untimely horrible and needless death, and because our daughter inherited the same BRCA2 mutation that I now know is so prevalent in her mom's family, I'm speaking up. I'm making it a personal mission to help prevent others from suffering like my wife did. (Although life-altering, my daughter has already courageously taken life-saving steps to reduce her cancer risk. Yes, hereditary cancer can strike young people. Being a previvor, she will be actively monitored for the other cancers associated with a BRCA2 mutation all her life.)
Breaking the cycle of hereditary cancer in families takes a determined effort and courage.
If you find you have a mutation, please talk to your family and share what could be life-saving information. And sharing specific information is vital. Without exact gene mutation information, doctors can be unsure of what to test for, and insurance companies are likely to deny requests for testing. With BRCA mutations alone, there are almost 5,000 pathogenic (cancer risk) variants and over 61,000 variants that are yet to be reviewed.
when there are different cancers in the family, and not just breast cancer, it
can complicate getting tested for genetic mutations. In my wife's case,
because of the different types of cancers in her family, she did not
meet NCCN Guidelines until a relative's gene sequencing report connected the cancers.
Immediately, openly, emphatically, and persistently sharing any inherited genetic threats you might become aware of with all those who might share DNA could save a precious life. Sit down with parents, brothers, sisters, adult children, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins -- all of them need to know.
Hereditary cancer can strike at any age. However, there are many options for prevention and life-saving early detection of cancer if information gets shared. So, show up and speak up! With love, empathy, thoughtfulness, fierce compassion, and courage, nobody has to suffer and die of a preventable cancer!
Here are links to stories I've shared about my late wife's cancer nightmare and being an advocate.
you will find a link to
numerous hereditary cancer resources to educate and empower
all who may want to learn more about genetic causes of cancer. There you will find resources to help you learn how to get genetic testing should you have
a family history of cancer and/or suspect hereditary cancer in your
family. In addition, there are numerous links to material on how to
openly and intelligently talk with your relatives about genetic mutations and hereditary cancer risks.