By Stacy Bronec | @stacybronec
This past spring, I turned 37, and at a regular visit with my midwife, I asked her if she thought I should do BRCA gene testing, which can detect changes in my DNA that increase the risk of breast cancer. My midwife asked me why, and I listed off my family history. My mom’s only sister died of breast cancer at the age of 50 (this is a picture of my aunt, Deanna, and me from 2009), my mom’s mom died of breast cancer at the age of 49, and my mom’s grandma had breast cancer but died of natural causes at the age of 93.
“It’s a personal choice, of course. But because it’s not a direct relation, I don’t think you need to be overly concerned,” she responded while closing my folder.
I’m generally not a person who worries a lot. Sure, I worry about my kids in ordinary ways. But do I want to get a gene test that will tell me that I might get cancer?
Even without a genetic test, I’m doing my own research on preventative measures. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several things that can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
*Maintain a healthy weight
*Be physically active
*Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy
*Do regular self-breast exams and bring up any changes in your skin or lumps to your medical provider
*Talk to your doctor about when you should start mammograms, based on your personal history
For many of us, we don’t need the month of October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) to remind us of breast cancer. Instead, the people missing in our lives serve as a daily reminder of the terrible disease.
But, I believe October can be a reset or a prompt to prioritize our health. If you started doing self-breast exams but have let them slide—start them again. If you’ve been putting off that first mammogram, call and schedule an appointment today.
Often as moms, we prioritize our kids’ health—scheduling their well-check appointments and stocking the pantry with ibuprofen and cough syrup. Unfortunately, it’s easy to let our well-being end up at the bottom of the list. So this month, I encourage you to take that step you’ve been avoiding or putting off.
As for me, I haven’t decided what I will do regarding BRCA gene testing. I know the decision will be different for everyone, and I’m not here to tell anyone what to do—that’s between you and your doctor.
This month I will remember and honor my aunt and grandmother by continuing to live my life to the fullest while making healthy choices—because I believe that’s what they would want for me, too.
Stacy Bronec | @stacybronec
Stacy Bronec is a farm wife, mom of three, lover of baked goods, and writer. She and her husband farm and ranch in the middle of nowhere Montana. In her previous life, she was a high school counselor. Now, when she’s not taking meals to the field or cleaning grain from the dryer vent, she’s doing barre workouts in her kitchen, reading, or scribbling notes to turn into stories. You can find her on her website, stacybronec.com.