Wendy’s Story: Breast Cancer
“Ten years ago at age 26, I learned I had the BRCA2 mutation. My father survived breast cancer but we lost his two sisters to the disease. We knew there had to be a genetic link. My dad, then my sister and I, were all tested for BRCA; we were all positive. Since I was only 26 and hadn't had any children yet, I chose surveillance. I had regular MRIs and mammograms and participated in a free breast imaging study. I met with doctors, worked out, and ate my broccoli. Today I am a full-time working mom of two kids, ages 8 and 5.
Many circumstances brought me to finally choose prophylactic mastectomy: the first was the desire to live a long, healthy life for my kids. I am very fortunate that my recovery has gone well and I feel great about my choice. I had the freedom to make choices about my health thanks to knowing my family health history. I beat breast cancer before it ever had the chance to beat me.” – Wendy
Julio’s Story: Heart Disease
“I never knew my father. He died when I was 6 months old from a heart attack. He was 42. My brother was 10 years older than me and did many things that my father would have done, like go to my ball games and buy me my first bike. When I was 30, he died of a heart attack at the age of 40. I went to the doctor and he ran some tests. My cholesterol and lipids were high.
My doctor recommended that I start exercising and he put me on some medicine that helped lower these levels. Today my cholesterol and lipid levels are being followed closely. I am 66 years old and the oldest living male in my family. It is important for my daughter, and my brother's daughters, to know this history. It could save their lives.” – Julio
Joy’s Story: Diabetes
“My entire family, it seems, has diabetes, and I am bound and determined to not be diagnosed...it frightens me! So, I watch my eating, joined a weight management program, exercise regularly and get routine physicals. Being 45 is not like being 25! I cannot eat the way I used to and expect to be slim! A hard truth, but a reality check that I have faced the last few years!
Healthy foods taste good, and I am so glad there are weight management groups where I work. Now I actually look forward to the aging process because I know that I am doing all that I can to age wisely.” – Joy
Mike’s Story: Adoption
“Last year, I decided to try to collect my family health history. I had one big problem: Since I am adopted, I couldn’t talk to any of my biological relatives to find out what diseases ‘run in the family.’ My adopted family and the adoption agency tried to help, but they didn’t have the answers I needed.
When my first child was born this year, I realized that I had been looking at it all wrong. I can start my family health history with me! I wrote down all of the health information for my husband and me and even recorded that my adopted mother and I have gone running together since I was a teenager. I will pass on the information to my children and my family history will grow with them.” – Mike
Lisa’s Story: Rare Health Condition (MCADD)
“When I became pregnant, I talked with my parents about diseases that run in our family. I wanted to be prepared for anything that could affect my child. My parents told me that before I was born, my aunt had a baby boy who seemed healthy. A few weeks later, however, he became very ill with vomiting and wasn't eating. The doctor diagnosed him with a genetic disorder called MCADD (Medium Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency) and put him on a special diet and medication. Unfortunately, some damage had already been done.
When I told my doctor this, she checked to see if MCADD was included in our state's newborn screening program. Luckily, it was. When my daughter was born, we paid close attention to her results. She too has MCADD, but we started her treatment right away. Now she is a healthy, active, three-year-old. By learning about my family health history, I was able to ensure that my baby stayed healthy.” – Lisa
Dorothy’s Story: Bunions
“I never thought much about bunions until my feet became so painful that I had to have surgery. My doctor said there was a good chance that developing bunions runs in my family. I started wondering, ‘OK, who is it?’ It turned out that my mother had bunions, too. Our doctor has already told my teenage daughter that she is likely to get bunions some day. She looked at my feet and said, ‘Thanks Mom.’
When I was growing up, they style was to wear pointy-toed shoes. I know that wearing those shoes helped to cause the bunions. I think that wearing shoes with a wider toe might help. My daughter is more sensible about the shoes she wears; I'll give her that.”
To read more personal stories from other families about how knowing their family health history has impacted them and their loved ones, please visit the Utah Department of Health’s Chronic Disease Genomics Program Web site, or click on the direct links to each of their stories below:
- Arianna's story: Stroke (PDF)
- Bernice's story: Osteoporosis and Stroke (PDF)
- Eugene's story: Neurological Disorder (PDF)
- Jenny's story: Depression (PDF)
- Kristina's story: Asthma (PDF)
- Marian's story: Heart Attacks (PDF)
- Starr's story: Genealogy and Cancer (PDF)
- Susan's story: Heart Disease (PDF)
- Tom's story: Familial Hypercholesterolemia (PDF)