Why Your Family Health History is Important

Knowing Your Family History Could Save Your Life

The second small miracle: My cousin Karin has finished up her first year or college at UD and is preparing to return to California with her mother, Charlotte. Since she does not plan on coming back to UD for the rest of her education and since our family lacks traveling funds, I know that this is my last chance to see either of them for a potentially long time. I stay late at work so that I can meet them and my mother for dinner.

The four of us go through a comical and very typical Boyd family fiasco of wrong flight times, changed pick-up plans, misplaced IDs, and rental car mishaps before finally making it to an IHOP just before midnight. Though both my mom and I had promised earlier to eat healthy, light, just a salad or soup, we are famished by the time we arrive and order the usual pancake-and-eggs fanfare. During the course of our dining conversation, I feel the impulse to bring up the thyroid craziness. Our conversation paraphrased and via an imperfect memory:

ME: So did Mom tell you about my abnormal thyroid?
CHAR: (slightly alarmed) No. What’s going on?
ME: Oh, well, I don’t think it’s a big deal or anything, but my thyroid looks like swollen hamburger meat and has all these nodules on it. They said it could be cancerous, but that it’s very rare and since the biopsy costs over 1000 bucks, I don’t think I’ll do it.
CHAR: Oh my gosh. You should. You should get it checked out! Don’t you know what happened to Kathy?
ME: Well yeah, Mom told me that most of you have thyroid problems.
MOM: Everyone but me and Johnny. Not sure why.
CHAR: Yes, but she had thyroid cancer. She had to have the whole thing taken out.
ME: (Alarmed) Cancer? (To Mom, louder) Cancer??
MOM: (Also alarmed) Cancer?
CHAR: (To Mom) Yes, Mary. Don’t you remember? She was about MJ’s age and she had to have the whole thing taken out and now she’s on that thyroid pill.
MOM: Yes, yes. I knew she had problems, but I guess I forgot that she had cancer. I mean we weren’t living in the same house or anything. I must have forgotten.
ME: Forgotten? CANCER? You FORGOT that we have a family history of the very cancer that I might have? Don’t you think this might have been medically relevant information, Mom??
MOM: (sadly) Well, I guess I just forgot. I mean Johnny and I never had any problems. Oh dear. Oh dear. Sweetie, I think you’d better get that biopsy.
ME: Well YEAH.

About a week later, the morning of the biopsy, I found out that another aunt of mine, on my mother’s side, also had thyroid cancer. So that makes two aunts with thyroid cancer. And a very good genetic reason to get a biopsy.

Third small miracle: When I called the finance department a second time to schedule my appointment, the cost of the biopsy magically shrunk to $282. The original estimate was $1100. I tried to get a reasonable explanation of this, then just decided to be grateful and pay.

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