Close to the Heart – My Family’s Battle with Breast Cancer

11 Oct

My Grandmother Ida was taken suddenly at age 40 by breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Awareness month is always bittersweet for me – on one hand, I am so energized by the increased fundraising and awareness of this life-shattering disease. As more and more women (and men) get involved in the battle against breast cancer – whether it has affected them directly or not – the better chance we have of saving lives.
On the other hand, I can’t help but think of my beautiful grandmother Ida, whom I never had the honor of meeting. Even my own father barely got to know her; she died at the age of 40, ravaged by breast cancer. From what I have been told, it was pretty sudden: My father was a young boy at the time and was sent off to summer camp, and he came home to a very sick mother. I think that in those days illnesses were often not discussed with children. I can only imagine how tragic it must have been for my dad and his younger sister.

Brantley and me with my parents at our wedding :)

Family is so incredibly important to me, and I’ve been blessed to have both of my parents in my life. You may already know that my mom, Liz, helped me launch Lindsay Phillips Switchflops and continues to work with the company today. My dad is very much another pillar in my life, and I just can’t imagine losing him as he lost his mother. I know he has had the exact same thoughts.

My father is a doctor and in my family we have always been about prevention. I always tell people that knowledge is power, and I truly believe this. The more you know, the more you can prepare. Our family practitioner is very into doing genetic testing for the BRCA 1 gene. It is actually crazy to think that males can be carriers of this deadly disease, but it is true. I grew up under the assumption that the BRCA gene could only be transferred from the mother’s side, but this is a myth. This is why my father decided to have genetic testing done to see if he carried the breast cancer gene. With the way that medicine is progressing, it is important to know even though sometimes knowing is not emotionally easy. My father wanted to prepare us if he came back positive.

My dad and me, right after my birth. Soon, he will be holding my son!

It was very tough for my father to learn that he was in fact a carrier of this horrible disease. To think that he could possibly pass it on to his kids must have been an unimaginably horrible feeling. I know that it was not a easy for my Dad to tell me the news. I still remember where we were and how he told me. I will probably never forget that day. He did not tell me right away- the first thing he did was research on what to do if I had the gene, and he talked to many professionals in the industry. When he told me, my main concern was if he was going to be okay.

I decided to have the test done myself a few years ago, at age 25. I am usually a very optimistic person, but I went in knowing the odds were not in my favor. With this I prepared for the worst. I went in thinking that I probably had the gene and would need to move forward with prevention, have kids early, and get monthly mammograms. When I found out I was negative, I felt incredibly blessed and relieved at the same time. However, I wake up every day and think about those who have not been as lucky as I have. The day I found out, I made a promise to myself that I would do something every year to help find a cure.

I've always been a Pink Girl.

Just because I don’t have the BRCA gene does not mean I am off the hook. It just means the risk is not as high. There are still environmental factors that can cause breast cancer. So I will continue to stay up to date on all of the latest  research and information. My wish for all of you is to get annual mammograms (depending on your age and family history) and stay up  to speed on breast cancer prevention. And if breast cancer runs in your family, get tested…. It is a very easy test. Just a simple spit (a saliva test) can prepare you for the future.

In the meantime, let’s all find the cure together. I am such a big believer in donating. In the past, I’ve donated to a mammogram voucher program at a nearby hospital in Florida. It is truly an amazing program in my local community for women who can’t afford to have mammograms. If they test positive, they are then treated for free. I believe in helping other women,  and my goal is to try to help find a cure to Breast Cancer. Just remember that every day you are healthy is a good day. Don’t take anything for granted…

3 Responses to “Close to the Heart – My Family’s Battle with Breast Cancer”

  1. Stacey Colberg October 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    You are very lucky to not have been found positive for the gene since your dad is a carrier! I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed at 38 and had a left mastectomy. I had the BRCA testing done and was also found negative. However, it is important to realize that only 12% of breast cancer is genetic. It’s funny that you say “knowing is power” because I just told a friend of mine that a couple days ago when her mother was diagnosed. The power that you have over this disease is incredible and can only come from prevention. Thank you for spreading the word. Girls…keep checking your girls!

  2. Sandra Kraus October 15, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this incredible story! This year I had my first mammogram! Everything check out clear! I feel that it’s an obligation as a women to educate yourself and be tested early on. Thank you for sharing

  3. Tracee Paknis October 16, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    My grandmother too died of breast cancer at a young age. It is so important to do self exams and have regular professional checkups . As Lindsay brought up, the ability to have yourself checked for the breast cancer gene is now a reality. So, more of us with a family history of breast cancer, should look into this as another option to help with prevention and awareness. I thought I found a lump in my breast a few months ago, but luckily when it was checked by a doctor it turned out to be just uneven breast tissue.
    Donations to these causes are always needed. I recently ran the Sydney City2Surf 14km run, where I raised $300 for the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia which works in preventative and cure driven research. Over 80,000 people participated with about 5 million dollars raised for various charities. We can’t forget that every little bit counts in helping to fight off these diseases.

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