The fight against cancer has taken a new meaning in my family. The need to support the research and patient-care programs at places like Roswell Park Cancer Institute is never-ending. Not only can a cancer diagnosis change someone’s life dramatically, the diagnosis of an inherited genetic condition that substantially increases your chance of getting a number of different cancers can affect your entire family tree.
After my mother battled 7 different cancers in twice as many years, she was finally given the positive diagnosis of Lynch Syndrome.
Lynch Syndrome is an inherited condition that causes the genes that normally recognize and correct mistakes in our genetic code to malfunction. These abnormal genes lack the ability to repair these minor mistakes and they are able to accumulate, which leads to increasing genetic damage within the cells and can lead to them becoming cancerous. This causes the risk of certain types of cancer (colon, endometrial, kidney, ovarian, urinary) to skyrocket. For example, someone with Lynch Syndrome will have a lifetime risk of 60-80% for colon and endometrial cancer. And at much younger age (before 50).
Where the family tree comes in is that there’s a 50% chance you will pass Lynch Syndrome to your children. Unfortunately, those odds were not in my family’s favor. Out of my mother’s three kids, 2 of them have tested positive for Lynch Syndrome. I have thankfully tested negative, but both my brother and sister have tested positive. So, they face a lifetime of cancer screenings and pre-emptive surgeries to avoid the possibility of cancer forming in the future. They also face the 50% chance of passing the gene to their kids. My sister has a four year old boy (my awesome nephew, Alexander Joseph), an almost three year old little girl (Bella Anne) an almost 2 year old boy (Evan John), and a brand-new baby boy (Elijah Paul). So, the cycle of testing will start again.
Many families with Lynch Syndrome have to deal with yearly screenings for prevention, surgery to remove more likely affected organs, and cancer treatments when they do appear. Luckily, my sister and brother know at a young age and can be more proactive on prevention. Unfortunately, my mother struggled for years to understand why these cancers kept appearing in different areas, and why they kept coming back. There are more people out there who may not know they have this genetic condition. For all of these people, places like Roswell Cancer Institute can help.
So, I am asking to please make a donation to my Ride for Roswell page. For those fighting a seemingly losing battle (genetic conditions), for someone in your family or friend circle who is still fighting, or in memory of someone you know who fought courageously until the end. The money raised goes towards research, patient support and, of course, genetic testing.