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    A year ago I had never even heard of National Cancer Survivor's Day, a celebration of life held around the world. This year, however, it's an incredibly important day for me. 

    What a difference a year makes.

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    I don't know what it feels like to have a child and not have the dark cloud of cancer hanging over my head. I was diagnosed with Stage 3C widespread gynecologic cancer when my daughter was just five days old. So, despite my best efforts to live each day in the moment, there's almost always this niggling little voice in the back of my head reminding me, "you might not be here when that happens."

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  • 11 +SHARE

    What I want to know is what moms, particularly new moms, did before Facebook and Twitter? Seriously. These social media outlets have saved my ass -- and kept me from losing sleep -- more times than I can count in the 15 or so months that I've been a mom.

    Back in the day, where did moms turn at 2 a.m. when their babies began puking buckets? Or when their kid spiked what appeared, at least to the inexperienced parent, to be a dangerously high fever? Or when the toddler who hadn't pooped in a week began screaming with belly pain?

    What did our moms do in the pre-Internet dark age?

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  • Making Peace With Cancer

    posted by Joanna Montgomery March 14, 2013 at 9:53 PM in Healthy Living
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    I recently came to the realization that I may have no choice but to join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients on this planet who don't fully beat cancer but don't die from it either. The patients who fall into the third option category. 

    The ones who just learn to live with it.

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    My husband and I were both 44 years old when our only child was born. Our daughter is now 15 months old and we're 45. We're the oldest of the parents among our daughter's Montessori classmates. Her teachers are young enough to be our own children.

    See, this is the kind of mathematical comparing I do all the time.

    When I was pregnant, my obstetrician referred to me as being of "advanced maternal age". I accepted that. Being knocked up at 44 put me in a certain high risk category. But in all of the excitement of our pregnancy, I didn't put a ton of thought into the "advanced parenting age" aspect of the situation.

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  • 37 +SHARE

    I recently found out that I have the BRCA1 genetic mutation. And even though I've recently gone through a hell of a year of intense treatment for widespread gynecologic cancer, I am now facing the fact that I am at very high risk for breast cancer. Like really high risk. I'm told that there is an 87 percent chance that I'll contract breast cancer in my lifetime. And although at age 45, I've already lived through part of my lifetime risk, those odds are still uncomfortably high.

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    I recently made the decision to seek genetic counseling and testing to determine if, given my history of cancer, my daughter was also at risk for contracting the disease. Turns out, she very well may be.

    My first step in the genetic testing process was to see if I carried either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. If I tested negative, I would then have the option to go deeper and do further testing. Given my known family history and all of the relevant factors, I knew I had a relatively low 7.5% chance of testing positive for one of the mutuations. So I was surprised this week to learn that I had indeed tested positive for a BRCA1 deleterious mutation. In other words, I have the cancer gene.

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  • Why I Feed My Toddler An Anti-Cancer Diet

    posted by Joanna Montgomery February 2, 2013 at 11:03 AM in Toddler
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    Can you imagine if you had never put anything unhealthy into your body? No fried foods, candy, caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol, drugs, red dye #40, processed foods, chemicals, hormones or any of that other known bad stuff? Not to mention if you had never intentionally baked your body in the sun, smoked cigarettes or placed yourself in a cloud of aerosol hair spray daily for years? If your body was as pure and toxin-free as it could be?

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    Since being diagnosed with Stage 3C Fallopian tube cancer a year ago, I have been concerned that my daughter might also be destined to get cancer based on her genetic history. My worries were compounded by the fact that my mother had (and subsequently beat) Stage IV non-Hodgkins lymphoma five years ago.

    If my mother had cancer, and then I did, what did this mean for my daughter? My younger brother, my only sibling with whom I shared a mother, was also concerned. Was it just a matter of time before he got the Big C as well?

    Rather than speculate, I decided to start doing some homework. First, I went for genetic counseling at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's Reach for Survivorship Clinic. I met with a Genetics Nurse (who knew there was such a thing?) with a long list of letters behind her name designating her post-graduate degrees in Cancer Genetics. She was a wealth of information.

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    Well, no sooner had I written about the one-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis than I received some frightening news. Blood tests at my second 3-month check-up this past week showed a raised CA-125 protein level (that's the cancer marker). And subsequent CT scans revealed some "worrisome" nodules around my pelvis and colon.

    Not the news for which I was hoping.

    My oncologist told me that there's a 50 percent chance I'm having a recurrence of cancer (and a 50 percent chance I'm not). We will duplicate the tests and scans in eight weeks to see if a trend is apparent before making any decisions. In the meantime, all I can do is wait.

    Actually, that isn't all I can do.

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About This Column
Joanna Montgomery

Joanna Montgomery gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and then five days later found out the mass on her fallopian tube, discovered during birth, was an aggressive form of cancer. That was December 2011. Here we follow her incredible journey as she not only fights this disease but experiences all of the joys (and exhaustion) new motherhood has to offer. 

 

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