Personal Stories, Headlines & Helpful Information
By: Susan G. Komen
and Felicia Mahone
For many people, breast cancer comes as shocking news – whether you are the first in your family to receive a diagnosis or this has been an unfortunate disaster to hit your family multiple times. We believe that understanding the entirety of your family health history is a crucial part of taking charge of your health and knowing how to properly assess your risks for different diseases.
Susan G. Komen has adapted the Surgeon General’s “My Family Health Portrait” tool to make it easy for you to record your family health history in a private, secure way. When you’re done, you can download your family tree, which can help your health care practitioner provide better care for you, identify your risks for some diseases, and allow you to take steps to reduce those personal risks.
Below is a letter that breast cancer survivor, Felicia Mahone, wrote to her loving mother, who passed away when Felicia was ten years old. After losing her mom, three of her aunts and one of her cousins also lost their lives to breast cancer. For Felicia’s family, this disease is personal, as it is for so many others. That’s why we’re advocating for you to know more about your family health lineage so that you can better take charge of your health. Read Felicia’s heartfelt letter below.
Felicia Mahone with her loving mother.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 35 years since I last saw you. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish you were still here with me. Breast cancer is a vicious disease, as you unfortunately learned far too soon.
Breast cancer invaded our family, Mom. After you fought against this disease with every ounce of strength in your body and it took you, it also took Aunt Harriet, Aunt Gwen, Cousin Ursula and Cousin Janice. Then, it came for me when I was just 27 years old. I later learned that I had a gene mutation that increased my risk of breast cancer.
I was diagnosed at a time when I was supposed to be enjoying life – going out with friends, starting a family, just living life to the fullest. I never thought I was immune to breast cancer but I thought I was the lucky one in the family. I was wrong – it came for me. It came for me with a vengeance. I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a very aggressive type of this disease. But, I was determined to keep my faith strong, hold my head up high, and give breast cancer a solid fight.
Mom, when I was diagnosed, you wouldn’t have imagined the people that just looked at me with a blank face. Even some of the people I’m closest to. Maybe they thought I was going to pass away, like you and the other women in our family. By the grace of God, I’m here writing this letter to you, to tell you that I want to be part of the efforts to end this disease for good – because breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence.
I want to change the way our friends and families see it, and have this disease be talked about openly. I want to equip women with the right information so that they can know their risks. When I was fighting, I lost my job while I was getting treatment. I know this happens far too often and I want to make sure that women in our community have the access to financial backing for the care that they need.
In your honor, Mom, and in the honor of our family, I promise you that I will do everything I can to change this. I have a purpose here. I have a chance that I will never, ever take for granted.
All my love,
Learn how to map out your family health history and encourage your family to get started here.
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