Buckle up boys and girls. There is a TON of information in this post, all written in true Ms. Cheevious fashion (fun)… You will miss important information if you breeze through, however. If you value your life, take the time to read this. And that’s no joke. It could really make a difference for you or someone you love. Now, dive in and enjoy.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I think it only fitting to make this announcement now. No. I don’t have breast cancer. It’s more involved than a simple diagnosis, but it’s important and everyone should be aware of this information, so they too can make informed, proactive decisions as they are able.
This post is in honor of my sister Mary Louise “Mimi” Sherwood Larimore, who passed away in August, 2010, losing her almost 7 year battle to Ovarian Cancer.
Why, dedicate this post to someone who suffered with Ovarian Cancer, when I’ve said clearly it is timely for Breast Cancer Awareness? Well, mostly because I can, but there are other, much more important reasons.
Read on to learn them.
Me, with a lab coat and horn-rimmed glasses.
Now you’re ready.
First off, let me preface the rest of my post with this: I am NOT, in any way shape or form saying that anyone can ever be TOO SEXY (for their genes or otherwise)! No, my dearies, in the long, endless list of things to worry about or avoid, being “too sexy” is not one of them. Also, in this context, I am referring to being SEXY and creating sexiness by staying fit and healthy, which causes our body to become a lean, mean, streamlined, fighting machine. This of course means that in the world of biology, if we do these things, we hope that all pieces of the puzzle communicate, find each other, and fit nicely together. Being TOO SEXY, in my case means this: FOR GODDSAKES! Here I am working my ASS off (pun intended), mostly for the health benefits, and in this particular case, it really didn’t make a bit of difference.
So, apparently I am WAY too sexy for my genes…. My little puzzle pieces (genes) just can’t keep up with me. Or, as I’m told, at least one of them can’t. But can you blame ’em? The mere pace I keep in life alone causes grown men to cry… (insert evil laugh) but that is another topic for another time.
Many of you, if you’ve followed my blogs, and my vlogs on my YouTube channel, know that my beloved, beautiful sister Mimi Sherwood Larimore lost her battle with Ovarian Cancer in August of 2010. Her ongoing battle was horrific to behold (even from a distance), but in true Sherwood Girl fashion, we all believed she would conquer the scourge that besieged her body. We all supported her belief, wholeheartedly.
Her illness prompted my gynecologist to begin a personal campaign to get me to the genetic specialists at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. And when my sister passed away, without having opted for genetic screening, my doc turned up the heat. She REALLY wanted me to be screened for Ovarian / Breast Cancer (they are related) gene mutations. So I succumbed. This time, I had no excuse, because I knew I wanted to know, but in the year past, my insurance would not have covered such a test. This was not the case this time around. My insurance covered 90% of the screening. I also learned insurance companies are prohibited by law from discriminating based on genetic testing.
I’ll cut to the chase here. I went in for the screening, and then went in for my results, and more to the shock of the genetics counselors than to myself, I tested positive for the BRCA2 Genetic Mutation.The shock was because even with TEN FRIGGIN SIBLINGS, I had only one first degree relative with ovarian cancer, and none with breast cancer (although the BRCA2 gene is indicative of the risk increasing with age). None of us is absolutely certain whether our father’s cancer – which was only discovered two days prior to his death – and running rampant throughout his mid-section – was prostate, stomach or pancreatic cancer – or not – (also high-risk cancers for BRCA2 mutation carriers). Our mother did not have it (she had lymphoma). There was a second degree relative with Ovarian tumors at a young age, but that was about it! So yes, the genetics experts at Cedars were quite surprised.
I’m not sure what to make of the image below… but it matches the lab coat thing we got goin’ on here, and gee, it sure is pretty. If you are a true GEEK, perhaps you can post a reply below and enlighten us. But explain it slowly and in three and four letter words if at all possible.
Who would have THUNK something with the ability to wreak such havoc, could come from either one of these gorgeous people?
That is my mom, Nereide Frances Padalino Sherwood, holding my oldest brother, with my dad, Orville Joseph Sherwood.
Yes, my little Hottie-McHottlesteins, I am old enough to have parents who were having kids in the NINETEEN-FORTIES… but just BARELY. My parents had me when they were late into their SEVENTIES. I PROMISE. 🙂 It was a miracle, and was featured in the National Enquirer, and everything… SWEAR. TO. GOD.
Anyway – back to my lab coat and horn-rimmed glasses… and to the Genetics Counselors at Cedars Sinai:
They explained that our bodies read genetic code as such:
Genes are read in three “letter” sequences. But every three letters must “make sense” or “spell” something… so a correct set of code may look like this:
But when a mutation occurs, an extra “letter” – like an “A” is inserted, which sets all the code off and causes all kinds of mayhem in your body. It may look like this:
So, why only these cancers (Ovarian, Breast and lesser known cancers) then? Why wouldn’t this screw up our entire bodies? Why wouldn’t there be a risk of brain tumors or whatever?
Well, they said it’s like a library. The brain tissue or liver tissue, etc… it never has to access this code. This code is only accessed by breast and ovary tissue most of the time, and the prostate and pancreas (and other parts of the body) some times. So that’s why you don’t get bone cancer, or a brain tumor, etc…
Additionally they provided these nice little statistics of RISKS for me to think about (and share with any and all blood relatives):
Risk for Early onset (around 50 yrs) Prostate Cancer:
Those with mutated Gene: 20% (goes up with age, significantly)
General Population: 5% (goes up with age after 70)
Risk for Breast Cancer:
With mutated gene: 5-7%
General Population: <1%
Risk for Pancreatic Cancer:
With gene: 2-4 %
Gen population: <1%
Risk for Breast cancer:
With gene mutation: avg 80% (risk increases with age up to 87% or more)
without (general population): 7%
Risk for Ovarian cancer between age 50-70:
With gene mutation: 19-27%
Without (general pop): 1.7%
Risk for Ovarian cancer from 70 and up:
With Gene mutation: 27-44%
General population: < 2%
So, in my results appointment, my Genetics counselors discussed the options available to me with this new information. There were a few choices but I opted for the most aggressive approach to eradicating my elevated risks. For me it was simple. I saw what my sister and her loved ones went through. I have had my kids, and hell, I had a breast lift to improve my appearance after nursing my kids years ago!
Sometime in the next couple of months, I am undergoing a double prophylactic mastectomy (with breast reconstruction and implants) and at the same time, will have them remove my ovaries and tubes. There are other factors that can further complicate the surgery (for instance, if they see something questionable while in there, etc.) but we’re assuming I am extremely healthy and doing this solely for preventative measures.
So why the long, drawn out post, with all these details? Well, because.
I share everything with you people.
And there is a lesson in all of this for you: Don’t be too sexy for your genes. Get screened.
Don’t think you are too good, too healthy, too anything to NOT be screened. Don’t NOT be screened for any of the wrong reasons. If you have relatives who’ve suffered from Breast or Ovarian cancer (maybe even Pancreatic or Prostate cancers – ask your doctor), then ask about it and don’t allow FEAR of the unknown, or KNOWN to rule your life.
If you are looking for a conservative approach to life, and want to find a blog that praises you for taking no risks while safely maneuvering through the twists and turns on life’s road – you have come to the wrong place.
Hello! I am Ms. Cheevious! Adventurous – Fun – Cute – Cuddly (just making sure you’re still there) – and I really do try with all of my heart to be brave and make BRAVE choices. Being brave is a choice and bravery is something you must consciously make an effort to practice.
I love life, and I really do – on purpose – take REAL, sometimes SCARY, LIFE-CHANGING RISKS. Not always. But I certainly try not to make choices out of fear. And yet, somehow I still ENJOY EVERY MOMENT, and I have no regrets. I truly believe this quote, and I’ve used it before:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow. What a ride!’ ”
You can do that too, if you so choose. I’m here to cheer you on. We are ALL here to cheer you on!
Here’s a tweet you can copy and paste into twitter to encourage others too – especially in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
They’re MY boobs, and I’m quite attached! Get screened ladies. It can save your life! @mscheevious #breastcancerawareness
And guess what? Now that you’ve made it this far – here is the REAL announcement! HA!
You’ll soon be able to SEE and HEAR more about this journey, because I’m scheduled to be on an episode of The Doctors with my reconstructive surgeon Dr. Lisa Cassileth, who has a breakthrough procedure for reconstruction after mastectomy, called the Cassileth One-Stage Breast Reconstruction (you can read more about that here). We are taping our episode soon, but check your local listings for The Doctors. COOL, EH!!??? I’m also videoing everything and hope to produce a documentary. Fingers crossed.
OH and HEY! Check out my new FACEBOOK APP! If you are already a member on Facebook (have “like”d it), you can check out the new cool stuff by clicking here (http://www.facebook.com/IamMsCheevious?sk=app_208237022576310) and surf around all the little links and such. You’ll be able to buy my book when it’s published, as well as other fun Ms. Cheevious inspirations to send to your fun, flirty, brave and daring gal-pals. If you are NOT a member of my Facebook Page, please join! You will love the interactive-ness of it all. PLUS it’s a great example of a custom Facebook page. I’ve worked hard on it!
That’s it for now… Stay tuned!
Love you people!!! Mmmmmppphhhuuuhhhh!!!
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Blog content copyright 2011, LISA JEY DAVIS a.k.a. Ms. Cheevious