Beneath pewter skies, the magic of autumn is slowly coming to an end. The air is thick and crisp as bare trees drip the very last of burnished crimson and golden leaves onto slumbering ground. As we enter into the winter of 2013, it is with gratitude which equals that of our ancestors, to whom we are beholding for the lessons offered in the gift of hope, offered by a good harvest.
Thanksgiving is all about love and sharing the day with people we care about. There is no better way to celebrate it than in the manner of those who came before us, by sharing their challenges and strengths, including our family medical histories with one another, and frolicking with joy and familial camaraderie.
In one unnamed Lynch syndrome home, which may be a bit different than the norm, the harvest table has traditionally been lively…with old and young, laughing and joking…until the moment occurs, just before dining and after “saying grace.” It is then a round table discussion ensues as each expresses their gratitude, and how they intend to pay their good fortune forward to those in need.
It begins solemnly…ordinarily starting with Grandma. ”I am grateful I have survived these three cancers and am here today. I am grateful for the opportunity to live, unlike those who came before us…and be with those I so dearly love… to out eat all of you, on this day of gluttony.”
Her devoted husband reluctantly follows…”I am grateful for the support of family and friends, the medical professionals who kept my lovely wife alive, another wonderful Thanksgiving together, and for my employer offered vacation leave which I get to use to travel with my wife to exotic locations like Needles, California, to share information on Lynch syndrome with others.”
“Ah, Needles…” Grandma groans.
Following birth order, Mom speaks up, “I’m grateful for my mom and dad, who stood beside me following my diagnosis of Lynch syndrome and who incessantly nagged at me to get genetic testing--helped me duck a few bullets of evolving cancers which were discovered during my contribution of several significant body organs to my local hospital. I am grateful to whomever developed HRT following total abdominal hysterectomy and oophorectomy, as well as bilateral mastectomy, so I wouldn’t go through the demonic episodes my mother once forced our family to endure. And finally, I am grateful my contribution this year is to share this story instead of more body organs.”
The youngest of the family, not to be outdone, slaps her hands to her chest, lamenting, “Oh, the drama, the drama…” while mom playfully slaps her on the arm. The youngest son offers his two cents worth.
“I am thankful my parents are still alive and able to continue assisting me in my support to live the entitled life to which I deserve, as well as take me on vacations to exotic locales with them, like downtown Needles, California. This year, I am willing to sacrifice further, and my contribution will be to make myself available to LSI if they need anyone to travel to Miami, Florida, in mid spring, to a conference hopefully located near South Beach, where the beautiful people reside, and, of course, to exhibit on behalf of LSI.”
The youngest grandchild cries out, “Grandma, that’s not fair. I want to go to South Beach, too!”
“No one is going to South Beach,” Grandma groans.
Though the genetics profession deems children should not be genetically tested until they turn eighteen, approximately twelve percent (12%) of Lynch syndrome families are doing so anyway, and preparing their children for a lifetime of survival. Believe it or not, many are well adjusted, or at the very least, somewhat well adjusted, unlike those in THIS family.
Not to be outdone, Grandson Number 1 exclaims, “I am grateful I know of LS and Grandma can still cook good. I am hopeful, this year, that her contribution may include paying my car insurance and help ease my life from experiencing the scourge of this devastating condition to which I may be predisposed so I can go to Needles, as well...”
Grandma holds her hands to her head and groans…”Oh, Good Lord.”
“And further, my contribution is when Grandma dies, I’m donating her body to science!”
Everyone laughs. Grandpa intervenes. “I really don’t know if I should ask why you would want to do that.”
The response is instant. “Because I want to see the look on the face of the medical student who opens her up and finds nothing inside.”
Grandpa nearly spits his food out, as he bursts into uncontrollable laughter—you know, the kind which brings big belly laughs and tears to the eyes. Grandma merely shakes her head, while looking up to the sky. He pats her hand in comfort. “Nobody’s giving your body to science.”
Grandson Number 1 acquiesces. “Okay, okay. Then, I’ll go to South Beach too, instead.”
Grandma groans louder. “NOBODY is going to South Beach.”
Two more grandchildren offer Thanksgiving sentiments: “I am grateful for my beautiful mother and hope she takes care of herself so she won’t get cancer. And if it does happen, I will gladly take care of her jewelry, and wear it proudly as I volunteer with my uncle in South Beach.”
Grandma groans and covers her head with her hands….then bangs her fists on the table and buries her head into her hands. "I reiterate, NOBODY is going to South Beach.”
The grandson smiles in triumph and pokes the other grandchild in the side.
“You think? Your turn.”
“Oh, me? Uh, my contribution is I hope when I get tested, I am negative. But whether or not I am or not, Grandma, don’t worry, I know we won’t be going to South Beach…you’ll find me in Orlando, with everyone else!” She sticks her tongue out at the rest. “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.”
The youngest cries out, “Grandma, you're not taking her to Orlando?”
Grandma puts a finger to her mouth. “Shhh, it's secret!
“Hooray, Living with Lynch syndrome in Orlando!” the youngest cries.
Grandpa interjects, “Okay! Enough…nobody’s going to Orlando, especially if they can’t behave. Ya ‘all hungry?”
“Yep! Grab it,” hollers the grandson, armed with a fork.
"I'm grateful for Orlando." the youngest says dreamily.
Hands quickly reach for bread, wine, olives, while Grandpa carves the turkey. Sounds of scraping food from bowls to plates, blends with laughter, as everyone extends their plates.
“Hey Grandpa, can I trade this thigh for a drumstick?” a voice echoes from down the table.
“Drumsticks are overrated, I want a breast!” announces the youngest.
Mom interjects, her hand covering a full mouth to conceal laughter, “ Just got two new ones with my mastectomy. You want the old ones? I'm sure they're around somewhere.”
Grandma groans again. “Oh, good Lord! ”
The younger one joins in, “There you go, Grandma…now’s your big chance, if you’re getting tired of being “flat and fabulous.”
"I get no respect, whatsoever!" Grandma casts a facetious look of disapproval, received by giggles.
"You know I love you, Mom," the daughter says.
Finally, the voice of wisdom from the Godfather, the old father, the grandfather and the great grandfather who had silently been sitting at the end of the table, amused. “Now, my turn." Everyone falls silent and reverent, awaiting, as he clears his throat. "I am so very grateful for all of you, that you have the ability to love one another and laugh despite the challenges and obstacles you face. Now, THAT is truly living with Lynch syndrome!
LSI joins with the thousands of other families in sharing the lifesaving information about Lynch syndrome with our loved ones, during the holidays. We share gratitude for the over four thousand individuals who work together with LSI so hope will continue to exist and others may live. We are thankful for the opportunity to know you and your families, your obstacles, your challenges and to witness the strength and courage in which your beautiful families thrive. We wish each and every one a lifetime of health, happiness and love.
A special thanks to Myriad Genetics for inspiring families everywhere to discuss their family histories with one another during this time, in their current public awareness campaign. Genetic testing saves lives. We urge every institution, every genetic counselor, and testing company, to also become engaged and join us in protecting families and saving lives through education of medical professionals, community public awareness and offering services to affected families in need.
Disclaimer: This is the story of a Lynch syndrome family of volunteers, who would be crazy to identify themselves, and it is based upon a true story. And, about Orlando…stay tuned! Life is good! J