Christmas, 1976. All of the boys on my Dad’s side of the family posed for this snapshot, including Henry the dog:
Only one of these men remains alive today. The rest all died from cancer. On the far left, my Dad’s brother, a brilliant engineer and entrepreneur, died from lung cancer. Uncle Bill was in his late 70’s and a reformed smoker. On the far right, is cousin Hugh, Uncle Bill’s son. He died at age 51 from cancer of the bile duct. He had complex health problems including diabetes. In the back is my Dad who died of leukemia in his late seventies. Leukemia and lung cancer also killed my Dad’s father and mother. In the middle, the young boy and lone male left in my family is my brother John at age 12.
My brother, now age 48, does not want to know if he carries a defective BRCA1 gene. Some of my uncle’s children have chosen to test for the gene and some have not. It is a personal decision. Not everyone wants to peek inside their own DNA. I get it.
I am not sorry that I chose to test. Nor do I regret the massive amount of surgery I’ve endured in order to thwart more cancer. Of the seven children born to my Dad and his brother, 3 are either cancer survivors or have died from cancer. Of these same seven children that comprise my generation, only two had kids of their own.
National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week is September 23-30th. I hope the next generation of my shrinking family knows their history. None of the four girls who are members of that next generation have the last name of Pritchard, but they have some Pritchard genes. My fingers are crossed they are not the crummy ones.