October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink is being rolled out on websites and blogs all over the internet. Pink ribbons are being worn. Money is being donated. And people are talking about the absolute importance of awareness. Talking is good, in my opinion. Getting word out about the importance of self-examinations and other screenings can help women survive. Early detections is key.
And that’s why we’re talking about it here, on the birth/first parent blog, on this very first day of October.
First and foremost, my Mother was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer late last week. I’m still feeling the sting. My world is still reeling. We don’t know anything more than the word “invasive” and other talk of removing lymph nodes and possible radiation. The long doctor-patient conversations followed by parent-daughter conversations are yet to come. We’re just getting used to the big, bad C-word in our family. It’s kind of numbing.
I had planned on talking about this topic, today, even before the subject was forced into my immediate vision instead of existing on my periphery. Now, I have no doubt that I’m supposed to be driving this home.
If you are a birth mother, especially if you placed a daughter, you need to be on top of your breast health. (I say especially if you had a daughter because your daughter would be in the immediate genetic line. I didn’t leave out the possibility of a boy because your placed male child will still be carrying half of your DNA to pass on to a potential female child of his own.) Disclaimer stated, I’ll repeat myself: If you’re a birth mother, you need to be on top of your breast health.
I’m not joking around. One in eight women will have some form of breast cancer. And what increases that risk? A whole smear of things, including inheriting a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and a mother, sister, or daughter who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The list of things goes on, of course, which are vital for both you and any of your genetic offspring to know. For example, having your first menstrual period before age 12 is a risk factor. Did you know that? I didn’t. My Mom and I both fall into that category. Do you think that’s important information for me to pass on to my only daughter? I sure as heck do.
And that’s the point.
Whether or not you are in an open adoption with your child and her family, whether you’re in reunion, waiting to reunite or sure that reunion will never be possible: you need to be on top of your breast health. You need to evaluate your own risk factors. You need to discuss them with your health care professional. You need to be screened as necessary. If you’re of an appropriate age, also further affected by your present risk factors, you need to have yearly mammograms. And then? You need to be willing to make the information you receive known to your relinquished child.
That’s difficult for those mothers not yet in reunion or those who fear that reunion may never be possible. Still, simply having the information at the ready, possibly submitted to the placing agency to be placed in a file for a child unwilling to actually reunite, can go a long way. Mothers who are in reunion with their children can update their placed child with the information on a yearly basis so that the child can best use it and pass it on to appropriate health care professionals. Mothers with children who are still young can update the child’s family on a regular basis and clue them into possible risk factors. (Again, for example, an early start of menstruation as a risk factor, especially if it goes back a generation or two.)
It may come to pass that you will never get to share the information with your child. Quite hopefully, you may never have any information of any significance to share (meaning, no breast cancer! WOO!). But by taking care of your own health and being ready to share that information if you can, you are doing something so vital for future generations of your genetic family.
This month is about awareness. Too often, mothers of placed children are told that they have nothing to offer their children. At the very least, we can offer them honest, up-to-date information about their health so that they can be fully informed about things like breast cancer.
Consider scheduling yourself for a screening today. Do it for yourself. Do it for your children. Do it for their children.
For more, read: