October 1st, 2007
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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:

1. One True Benefit to Children from Open Adoption.

2. Informed Consent: Adoptive Parent Health History.

3. How Much to Disclose.

Photo Credit.

4 Responses to “Breast Cancer and Birth Mothers”

  1. roni says:

    Oh Jenna-I’m soo SORRY your family is goin through this. The C word is something no one wants to deal with.
    My sister is a breast cancer survivor. It was a long scarey battle. It was hard to “be there” for her when she’s in Arizonia and I in Wisconsin. She went through cemo and radiation. She has thanked my mom and I over and over again for the chemo caps we knitted her. She said she felt we were with her while she wore them. That warms my heart.
    Be strong, pray and think positive, my prays and wishes are with you and your family.

    PS-If it comes to the time you rmother may want/need chemo cap, let me know. My mother and I do knit them to this day and donate them to our local cancer clinic. We will be MORE than willing to send some your way. Let’s pray though that she won’t need chemo or radiation!

  2. Sunbonnet Sue says:

    My mother and MIL both had breast cancer. SO, our daughter, their grandaughter, has double the risk factor in her medical history.

    My mother died from it 18.5 years ago, it was at an advanced stage. She was diagnosed first part of November and died on Feb 1.

    My MIL is a breast cancer survivor. Hers was discovered 15 years ago at a moderately advanced stage. She had a double mastectomy, lymph nodes removed, chemo and radiation. Today, she is a healthy, feisty woman who just celebrated her 80th birthday a couple of weeks ago!

    Fight this thing. fight hard. For all of our daughters.

  3. BestLight says:

    I am sorry that your family is faced with this.

    You bring up some great points. I’ll have a talk with DD’s firstmom about these vital statistics.

    Holding you and your mom in my thoughts.

  4. [...] a firstmom blogger, had some bad news recently: her mom was diagnosed with breast [...]

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