Family History Helped Me Find My Lump
by Christie Perkins
Yeah, well… that happened to me.
Although it wasn’t a mixed up message but some fabulous tumor instead. It was passed from generation to generation, until it got to me all mixed up and messed up. Some static message ended up clunking out 2 types of cancer and 7 tumors (thankfully, only five were malignant).
Oh, the cancer whisperer messed that one up.
Although the BRCA1 and BRCA2 test came back negative (tells you whether your cancer is genetic or not), a genetic counselor told me that they believe that there is still a genetic link. The problem is that insurances won’t pay for it. I guess they don’t believe in it.
Must be the stoplight syndrome. You know, how they won’t put in a stoplight until there has been so many crashes at a particular spot.
Crash. Crash. Crash. I know several mother daughter cancer duos. All of them are also negative for the BRCA gene.
But, regardless of what the genetic counselors or insurance companies say, I still have a heads up on my health. My Grandma and Mom both had breast cancer.
Grandma’s Breast Cancer
I was in the hospital having a baby when I received news of Grandma’s cancer. The juxtaposition of life’s beginning and the possibility of life’s ending gave me mixed emotions.
The news was tough. I had just had a stressful delivery where I had an anaphylactic reaction to the medication. I had no clue my airway was closing off. Luckily they caught it quickly.
Then to top things off my baby came out not breathing, not crying, not doing anything (the respiratory therapist worked on him 7 straight hours)… but luckily he ended up okay.
And, now I was facing my Grandma’s last breaths… though I didn’t know it yet. She would live about another 2 1/2 years.
Not long enough.
Right before her passing she called me.
“Chrissy, if they tell me it’s cancer again I don’t want to do chemo. I don’t mean to be selfish.” I could tell she was twirling her finger around in her hair like she always did when she worried about something.
But, Grandma was far from selfish. She never even had the chance to have chemo because in 2 weeks she was gone. The cancer spread to her lungs and colon. By the time I visited her (a week before her passing) the tumors were bulging on her head.
Though Grandma didn’t make it God was generous to her. She never wanted to get old and cornered in a care center. He hears our every desire.
And that is the goodness of God. He was kind to her in her suffering. Her passing was sweet as she didn’t suffer long.
Just 6 months after my Grandma’s initial diagnosis my Mom was also diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a miracle. They said that the cancer was so small that they were amazed they even found it. But, that’s the faith of my mom. She is so close to the spirit that she just knew she had cancer. The doctors just shook their heads.
But she persisted. And triumphed.
I’m so grateful that she did. A lumpectomy, six weeks of radiation treatments, and a cheerful smile got her through her cancer.
How Family History Helped Me Through Cancer
A family history of breast cancer was not quite the promotional offer I was hoping for when I signed up for this family. But, hey, it is what it is. Family history is more than just names and disease tree. It’s so much more. (Thankfully.) Family history isn’t all about what they battled, but the history of how they handled their battles that are of significance.
Sure. The “what” made me take my lump seriously. But, it was the “how” they did it that helped me fight fearlessly.
(Ok. Let’s be honest here. Not completely fearless.)
Grandma joked about her prosthesis. We would laugh with her and join the playing. I thought that she was fine because she giggled and smiled a lot.
But there were quiet moments when we talked about her hidden feelings.
Her mastectomy scar was ugly and ran deep, touching how she felt about herself. It made her feel like a thing, not a woman. I was grateful she talked to me about this as I needed to be prepared for my own mastectomy many years later.
Moms approach was always “I’m fine,” and sunshine. I liked that approach rather than the doom and gloom approach. And that is how she fought with a cheerful “hello” at every phone call. A model I’d need.
And then when I faced my cancer 8 1/2 years later I had these two amazing war heroines that battled before me. One was physically by my side, the other spiritually; both contributing to both.
And both were very much needed.
But, at this point, I had already studied their code book for what I needed to do. And yes, there were aspects of each of our cancers that we had to walk alone but family history doesn’t always outline everything. It just tells us our results when we give our all and helps us see God’s mercy.
And death is not a result of giving our all. It is living our all so that at death we cannot fall.
We Need Our Ancestors
Family history is something that I definitely could improve on. (Yes, Mom… I know, I know). But I have come to realize that the reason we have been asked to do family history work is because we need their help from the other side of the veil. And if we try to get to know them we will recognize their help in our lives.
“Brother Widtsoe reaffirmed that ‘those who give themselves with all their might and mind to this [family history] work receive help from the other side. Whoever seeks to help those in the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life” (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, 252)
As we take the effort to learn about our ancestors (to do their temple work and read their stories) we will feel a connection to them. And one day when we really need their help, a little whispering will filter through and touch our hearts and we will just know what to do. Because someone before us has been there, done that.
And the other side will meddle in your moments.
Finding My Cancer
And one day, you’ll be going about your life and you’ll get a feeling to look in the mirror and you will know that it is your Grandma helping you find your cancer. You’ll hear her give you the cancer whisper. You won’t hear words but you will feel something directing your footsteps.
She will whisper, Chrissy, I know you don’t want to do chemo but this is what you need to do.
And some of the doctors will shake their heads… you’re too young- it’s not cancer. But you persist.
And you’ll triumph.
You will know what you need to do. You don’t know how you know but you just do. And somehow you’ll have the courage… and it’s because Grandma’s holding your hand.
And then, God’s gentle touch will be merciful and kind. You will know of his love because you will see evidence of it in the lives of those who have gone before. You will feel him carrying you in the palm of his hand.
And death will not be a result of giving your all. But you will live your all so that at death you cannot fall.
And the code book of life will be added upon so that somewhere down the road you will be the one reaching out and holding someone else’s hand.
And you’ll realize that the cancer whisperer was just a tool to know of God’s love. And He will whisper that the moment won’t last… it’ll soon pass.
And in the end, it will all be okay.
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