Hi there! How are y’all doing? I’m great. Summer is here. Our tornado season has been mild this year (knocking on wood as I write). My little vegetable garden is rolling along. This isn’t a family history reporting piece. It’s more of a “fringe benefits of doing genealogy” opinion piece.
I kid you not. I have started this piece 3 times, staring in early April. It began differently each time. I have this incredibly morbid obsession about my own death. As I quickly approach my 50th birthday, I’m freaking out about quality of life into my elder years now too. Keeping this piece light-hearted is gonna be a task!
When I visit the doctor I have to fill out those forms that ask for family medical history. I am grateful for all of the boxes I get to skip over, but I always checked off what I knew: Diabetes, Colon Cancer, High Blood Pressure, High cholesterol, Asthma. My 40th birthday was lots of fun. That’s when it was suggested I start all of the testing that goes with creating a “baseline” for the Golden Years. Hahahaha!
Over the last six months, there has been a nagging voice to look at all the Death Certificates I have for genetic direct-line family members.
So here are what 6 family members passed from:
- Lung Cancer
- Heart Attack (myocardial infarction)
- Uremia Nephritis (Renal failure)
- Colon Cancer
- Cardiomyopathy (1st cause) exacerbated by Intraluminal Thrombi (2nd cause) exacerbated by Gastric Tumor.
Well, okay then.
About 5 years ago, I talked to my Nina, Phyllis Baltierra. I knew she was unwell, but did not know her specific issues. I asked if she was diabetic. “Oh yeah, honey,” she said. “We all are. You will be too.” What? But I didn’t want to be a diabetic. Needless to say, this conversation was key to my losing weight, exercising, and limiting sugar intake. It started my proactive attempt to take care of myself.
I married into a medical family. For 23 years, I’ve been privy to extensive conversations about dentistry, physiology, biology, medical journals, medical history, and current health issues. My mother-in-law is still so well read she can tell you about new medicines with a mental list of the pros and cons of each.
If I stop and think about it, we can document lots of causes of death on that side of my husband’s family as well. Prostate cancer, heart issues, tuberculosis, asthma, diabetes.
My husband and I actively listen to the friends around us when they discuss health concerns they are currently facing. We are working to face our health future head on. I finished working as a substitute preschool teacher this year because getting up off the floor with a 20 pound child in my arms was getting REALLY hard. I was exhausted when I got home. The job flexibility was great but at the end of the day I had to consider my physical well-being.
My chiropractor recommended yoga. Ted and I do some at home. I found this great little DVD at the local thrift store. (And sad to say, but I was truly happy to find it!)
Genealogy can assist in filling out those medical forms the nagging doctors press upon you. Having chatted with distant family members, I discovered that I shared infertility issues with many women in my family. Fibroid tumors were an issue for them. Many of my closer female cousins didn’t have this problem, so I felt validated and connected with these other women who shared the pain I did.
Honestly, I had no idea my paternal grandmother died of a heart attack. What?! Probably because she died when I was 8 and never thought to ask my dad about it much. Our natural propensity to not talk about illness is not thought of when we are younger. Then it’s too late to discuss. And in many cases, it’s considered off limits. Remember old TV shows when a character would whisper the word “cancer” to the other? Now we have 5K walks, and benefit runs, and we are wearing pink for breast cancer awareness. Changing times with health in the forefront.
There are now genetic screenings to see what each person might be have a chance of developing or passing on. I’m not quite ready for that yet. Not when I can look back with paperwork.
I work with several women my age who have been widowed already. I can’t imagine my life without Ted. We are working to care for each other – insist the other get to the doctor to look at the mole, the back pain, the hitch in our git along. As you get older you find love takes many forms.
I realize all of this post is from the current part of my life’s journey. If you share some of my direct line peeps, put their issues on your medical forms. Work with your care giver. Make some different life choices. My paternal grandfather worked in a mine in Montana which probably explains the lung cancer. So my NOT working in a mine could be helpful with keeping that disease at bay.
One recommendation I will give is simply endeavor to be happy. It is an amazing tonic and is good for the soul. You never know. It could cure many ailments that may, or may not, be a part of your path.
I have found a few new things to research in the old family history department. I’ve sent out my “we are related, but you didn’t know it letters” this week too. So be prepared for new blog pieces. Have a great summer! Stay cool.