Solitude is not an absence of energy or action, as some believe, but it is rather a boon of wild provisions transmitted to us from the soul.
In ancient times, purposeful solitude was both palliative and preventative. It was used to heal fatigue and to prevent weariness.
It was also used as an oracle, as a way of listening to the inner self to solicit advice and guidance otherwise impossible to hear in the din of every day life.Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Who’s afraid of genetic testing? Pretty much everyone.
Just like there are people who unpack their suitcase at a hotel and others who don’t, there are people who want to know their genetic risks and people who don’t. I get that. Particularly when it comes to diseases which have no cure, like Dementia.
BRCA is different.
WHAT IS THE BRCA GENE?
BRCA genes are tumor-suppressor genes that help repair damaged DNA. Both men and women carry it. A damaged BRCA gene can lead to an increased risk of certain cancers, particularly breast or ovarian in women. It can increase the risk of breast and prostate cancers in men also. One in 400 people in the general population carry a BRCA mutation. The number is one in 40 in the Jewish population.
WHO DISCOVERED IT?
The BRCA gene was discovered by Dr. Mary-Claire King. She is an American Cancer Society Professor of Genome Sciences and Medical Genetics. Her discovery of the BRCA gene has dramatically changed the field of genetics.
HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE IT?
You can talk to your physician who will collect blood or saliva for testing. 23andMe does include BRCA but at his time, it only tests for three BRCA variants, while there are over 1000. 23andMe also does not include genetic counseling, an important part of the process. Invitae, a company that provides genetic information and support as well, would be a good place to start.
WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW MY FAMILY HISTORY?
This would be a good time to ask relatives if you are unsure. Take the time to find out the cause of death of close relatives, if you can. I am missing some valuable genetic family history on my father’s side because of the Holocaust.
ISN’T THIS SOMETHING MY DOCTOR WILL TALK ABOUT?
Like sex, doctors don’t discuss genetic testing. According to Dr. King, only 19% of U.S. primary care physicians take a decent family history to assess for BRCA testing. In Israel the number is only 35%, even with the common knowledge of the increased risk of BRCA related breast and ovarian cancer in the Ashkenazi (Eastern European origin) Jewish population. Don’t wait for your doctor to bring it up, particularly if you have family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Too often testing is done only after a woman develops cancer.
WHEN SHOULD I GET TESTED?
Dr. King advocates for testing of all women around age 30. If you haven’t been tested, now is a good time. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, the results may change the course of action in the treatment.
WHAT IF I AM POSITIVE?
Breathe deep and know you have options. This is life-altering news but you are blessed with knowing and you have options. Choosing preventative surgery, like Angelina Jolie decreases your risk to nearly zero. Genetic counselors are expertly trained to support and guide.
If you know your BRCA status, you can be proactive and take steps to prevent deadly cancers. As Dr. King states, women do not benefit by practices that “protect” them from information regarding their own health.
None of this changes the fact that a healthy lifestyle and diet remain central to the enjoyment of life on earth. Illness can be random and beyond our control. But when it comes to BRCA, you may have an opportunity to dramatically reduce your risk before it is too late.
Special thanks to Laurie Nemzer, Genetic Counselor extraordinaire, and her colleagues at Kaiser Permanente for their oversight on this article.
What are you up to this weekend? I’m laying low; I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep. Here are a few suggestions for reading and watching…have a good one!
If only I had the problem of big hair! This is a fun read about hair and identity.
I’ve been enjoying The Time of Our Lives on Amazon Prime Video. This very watchable Australian series tackles marriage, divorce, parenting, infidelity and adoption with sensitivity and keen insight.
I can easily recommend this book, before I have even finished it – Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, Ronan Farrow’s new book. He recounts the Harvey Weinstein story and the Hollywood cover-ups with chilling detail. The mistreatment of women and the extent men are willing to go to silence them reaches far beyond the man and the victim – it is a team effort, in this case by NBC.
Apples 🍎! After an afternoon of apple picking, I made applesauce mixing Macintosh, Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp. I threw peeled and cored apples in the crock pot with juice from one lemon, a cinnamon stick and about a tablespoon of brown sugar and cooked 3-4 hours on high. That’s it! A few seconds of hand immersion blending created a smooth, bronze, creamy applesauce that tasted nothing like store-bought. Food porn at its finest.
My friend sent me this New Yorker article and I’d like to hear your thoughts . A long life is a gift. But will we really be grateful for it?
This past weekend the Kincaid fire couldn’t keep us away from a family wedding in The Sea Ranch, California. Quite the nauseating three hour drive from San Francisco but the place is special. A haunting, sparse, quiet place for celebrating love and healing along the craggy coast of the the pacific. Check it out.
Why in the world would anyone posting their first post on their first blog write about Hula Hoops?
Because hula hoops are a metaphor. They represent what I write about in this blog.
The days are shorter, the temperatures are dropping. This is a time of transition both mentally and physically. Some love it, others are less enthusiastic. Here are some tips to help all of us stay present in the moment and accept the changes in this astounding universe. Let’s start with the one everyone loves to hate…
1.Get a flu shot. Get a flu shot. Get a flu shot. I know, you’ve heard me say this before but I need to repeat. The flu makes you feel totally miserable. It can also kill you. Millennials, are you listening? If you want to hang out with the most interesting people on the planet like older adults, babies, sick people and pregnant women you better get the shot. There are no medically proven dangers. Don’t listen to the pseudoscience fear-mongers.
2. Start a Vitamin D supplement. Even if you are outside a lot, you are too covered up to absorb the rays of the sun. Low vitamin D is linked to seasonal affective disorder, muscle and bone loss and Type 2 diabetes. Starting in October, I take 5000 IU’s of D3 based on my doctor’s recommendation after a blood test.
3. Invest in cold weather gear. This does not have to be expensive – I got a packable down jackets from Costco- but go for quality. And they should look good. You want to be able to hike and then meet a friend for dinner and look as classy as ever without going home to change. Remember there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear!
4. Work on your mindset. Your body is highly adaptable, it’s your mind that is less flexible. The obsession with the weather here in Wisconsin is absolutely insane. If you expect five miserable cold months, that is exactly what you will get. Get psyched for cozy clothing, hot fires, and winter sports. Embrace the lovely quiet and stillness of the winter. Read and write more.
5. Work out at home. There are times when you just won’t be up for getting dressed and driving to the gym. That’s ok! This is an opportunity to get out of your exercise rut and try something different. Believe it or not, I’ve started hula hooping again. Hula hooped through halftime of last nights football game! Many of my readers are fans of Adriene. She has easy to follow yoga videos for all levels. The enviable Michelle Obama reveals her workout secrets in this article. Then there is RBG’s workout for the rest of us.
6. Ignore the carbohydrate cravings. They can be overwhelming. Start with a protein rich breakfast – avocado, cottage cheese, eggs, nuts. Winter vegetables are particularly rich in antioxidants and color. Squash, leeks, garlic, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, pumpkin and kale are filling when simply prepared and delicately seasoned. My homegrown cauliflower plants are just starting to bloom. Salmon and other fatty fish remain essential for the gut and skin. Hydration is harder to maintain but should be a habit by now.
7. Laughter, friends and healthy sex are the most festive ways to raise those serotonin and dopamine levels. This is a Love and Medicine four- season recommendation 💜.