BRCA Strong Mama
It was only about five months ago that I found BRCA Strong. But, not a day has gone by that I am not overwhelmingly impressed by the support that pours from this community. Each day, someone stands up and voices a success, a concern, a worry, or a fear. In response, dozens are there to listen, offer advice, and provide comfort.
Today, please allow me to stand up. I have known that I am BRCA positive for just over seven years. In that time, I have brought three children into the world. Each and every decision I make on my BRCA journey has been done with them in mind.
When my daughters were 4 months old, I decided to undergo genetic testing. My genetic counselor spent a lot of time outlining my family history. That exercise forced me to learn more about our family than I ever knew. With an extensive history of hereditary cancer, my genetic counselor selected a test and explained my risk for developing certain cancers if I also carried the gene mutation that seemed to be running rampant in our family tree. When my results came in, I took one look at my genetic counselor’s face and knew immediately that am BRCA1-positive.
Back then, my daughters were so tiny that it was not possible to have a meaningful conversation about this diagnosis. But, it definitely shaped our lives going forward. Today, I am blessed with three children, my twins and my son. I often think about whether they have inherited the BRCA mutation I carry. I wonder how I can provide them with a framework for understanding how this genetic mutation has profoundly affected our family’s history. Families with certain genetic mutations face many complex and personal decisions including how and when to share such information with their children. Now, my girls are 7 and my son is 4. My family has many more BRCA obstacles yet to come. There is no doubt that my daughters and my son will have questions.
It was with them in mind that I decided to create something that could help us start talking about our family’s health history. I wrote Mom’s Genes, and the series of books to follow, with the hope of providing families with tools that they can use to start a conversation with their children and empower them as health advocates. Intended for children ages 3 – 7, Mom’s Genes will assist parents and as a stepping stone for young ones to easily grasp sophisticated concepts in an interactive and playful manner. With age appropriate content, rhythm verse and vivid illustrations, Mom’s Genes can help parents children the importance of knowing their family history and being proactive about their health and wellness at a young age.
I believe parents and children need resources to help guide conversations with age-appropriate content so children can understand risk, establish healthy lifestyle behaviors, and develop coping mechanisms. I also believe that as parents we need support and community to help discuss these challenges as they arise. I hope you will join me on this journey, one BRCA Strong mama to another, and let’s get a conversation started with our children about their family’s health history so that they can grow into educated patients.
Shannon Pulaski is an attorney, author, avid patient advocate, wife, and mother of three. With a strong family history of cancer, Shannon knew she would have to start a conversation with her children about their family’s health history. She created Mom’s Genes to help other parents share their own family’s health history and encourage children to establish healthy lifestyle behaviors at a young age. To learn more visit www.proactivegenes.com.