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edeify.com » Blog Archive » Drink for the Cure: A History of Cancer

Drink for the Cure: A History of Cancer

April 30, 2010 – 11:38 pm

So I’m hosting a charity party tomorrow night at the Firehouse Lounge & Embury from 7-10PM in support of Kim Reed’s Race for the Cure, I hope you’ll join us there.

I’m not going to write about why you should support Kim’s Race for the Cure or even how this event came together since Kim has already written about those subjects much more eloquently than I could. Instead, I’m going to write about something I’ve never written about before and very seldom talk about, my family’s history of cancer.

One of the many things that I admire about Kim is her candor about a difficult issue, the personal subject of cancer in the family. It’s one thing to talk about cancer in the abstract sense, as a cause, something we can fight against together. It’s quite another thing when it literally hits home and directly impacts those you love. It’s a dark, serious topic. One that is not only uncomfortable to talk about but also might make others uncomfortable.

Which is why, even though I have a history of cancer on both sides of my family, I usually never talk about it. But after learning about the importance of creating awareness from Kim and the great nonprofits we’ve been working with on this event like the Komen Foundation, Gilda’s Club, BRICKS for Young Adults, and the Cancer Caring Center, I feel like I should speak out.

On my father’s side, it’s relatively simple, if you can say such a thing about cancer. My paternal grandfather died from colon cancer, which is why my dad has been getting screened every five years and why I will too eventually. Since my grandfather died from colon cancer in his 70s and my dad’s tests come up fine, I probably won’t need to get screened until I’m around 50, even though I’m at slightly higher risk. We have a young colon cancer survivor who will be speaking about this subject tomorrow.

On my mother’s side, it’s more complex and unpleasant. My maternal grandfather (that’s him in the picture above with my grandmother and yes, that’s me, so this is a very old picture) was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was still in his 50s. In 1980, he underwent brain surgery in central China, which according to my mother, “The whole procedure was a manual operation without fancy lasers or digitalized equipment. The doctor told us that Grandpa might live up to 3 more months.”

Thankfully, my Grandpa was a fighter (former military officer). He fought for his life and listened to the doctors. He did all the chemo, took all his medication regularly, and even participated in experimental trials, managing to survive for 10 years. In fact, we all believed he was in remission, which meant his sudden death in 1990 came as a devastating shock to my mother. Especially since she had immigrated to the US at this time and because of Green Card issues was not allowed to return home to attend the funeral (another reason why I don’t tell this story, since immigration is always a touchy subject in the US). One of my clearest memories from childhood is this image of my mother completely breaking down, sobbing hysterically while clutching the phone as she received news that her father died and she couldn’t return home to grieve and console her family. When we visit my grandfather’s grave or mourn his passing, she still sometimes apologizes about this, even though it was never her fault, which breaks my heart every time.

It’s still difficult. My mother worries about her risk for cancer, especially since routine effective brain cancer screening tests have not been developed yet. And since my mother and I both work in technology (meaning constant, low-level exposure to radiation through various computing devices) and are genetically pre-disposed, we both worry sometimes. But would we ever stop using technology?

Of course not, technology is wonderful and one of our main weapons in the fight against cancer. Without it, you wouldn’t know about our event tomorrow night (which I promise will be much more light-hearted than this blog post) and my company wouldn’t be able to be able to help out nonprofits by building new fundraising technologies.

So in conclusion, it’s good to be aware of cancer, but don’t worry about it too much. Instead, come party with us tomorrow and Drink for the Cure!

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