We all have family history. The adventures and achievements of our ancestors can trace their way over decades and oceans. Exploits that include the building of nations, fighting of wars and beginning the family tree that branches out over several generations. It is something we are all interested in and proud to share. But what if something darker weaves its way into the family history? What then do we do with it?
Perhaps I have led you down a more sinister path than intended. I am not about to confess my family has a hidden history of law breaking or mass murder that has been hidden. You must forgive my dramatic nature, but I feel when you learn the direction I am going you will understand the reason for my theatrical introduction.
I am a survivor of the ravage of Cancer upon my family. I consider myself a Cancer survivor of a different kind. You see I have never been diagnosed with this horrid disease. However, I have lived through the experience with each member of my core birth family, meaning my brother, father and mother.
There was only four of us growing up and now I am the last remaining member of the group. You cannot imagine the overwhelming loss that comes with this experience. Not only do you lose family members, you lose all the history yo had with them. You know what I mean, Christmases, vacations, or basically any day-to-day experience that created a memory that you cannot share anymore. I mean I am lucky enough to remember most everything, but eventually that too shall pass.
Beyond that however is the real crux of the issue created here. It is the overwhelming dread that one day I will complete the circle of family members that die from this disease. I can remember when my first family member died with this disease, my maternal grandmother who had breast cancer when she died from another cause in 1994. Cancer was only a word then, something that changed lives, but not something with a personal connotation to me.
Over the next 5 years I would lose a grandmother, dear Christian mentor, my brother and father to this abomination. Cancer suddenly became an ominous foe, one that I felt I had to personally battle. To that end I got involved with the American Cancer society through their Relay for Life events, an annual fund-raising weekend with the goal of increasing research and outreach. This gave me the forum to connect with other survivors of the traditional sort and the kind I claim to be.
But the cure is elusive and the carnage continues. After a reprieve of sort Cancer claimed my mother eleven years after my father and cemented my place as the sole remainder of my core family. My burden is knowing that the family history is a very serious consideration in my medical future.
How do I deal with this? Sometimes I deal better than others. I think this is the right time to share another common thread with you. My brother died when he was twenty-nine, my dad was fifty-nine and guess what, my mother was sixty-nine. I know it is a simple coincidence. So was the fact that they all died from the effects of Cancer. But I still have a concern, because this year I celebrate year number forty-nine.
Every time I have an unusual or unexplained pain that haunting thought fights its way back to my conscious mind. My faith gives me peace and that is how I can face the possibility.