Monthly Archives: May 2012

What you don’t know can’t hurt you

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…except that it really can.

So I started writing this blog post a few weeks ago, right after we made contact with my mom’s biological family. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to type up and share and whatnot, so I’ve edited this post a few times and ignored and wrote a shorter post with the basics of the encounter and posted that instead, with the intention of coming back to this one someday.

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As I explained the other day, my mom was adopted when she was 3 months old. She grew up knowing she was adopted and I grew up knowing she was adopted. Her whole life has been filled with “I don’t know”s and “This doesn’t apply to me”s in regards to family medical history forms and that experiment kids do in high school where they write down the eye colors of every family member so they can discuss dominant and recessive genes.

My grandparents gave my mom a wonderful life. She grew up a happy child. She’s been curious about her biological family, but could never bring herself to look for them. I remember in high school being very curious about it and the two of us sat down and we filled out all the paperwork necessary for her to request contact with her birth parents. It’s been sitting in a drawer since 2004. She couldn’t muster the emotional or mental strength to mail it in.

I remained curious throughout high school and college, but never really pushed my mom to look for her birth relatives. It wasn’t my place. My oldest brother, Nicholas, was probably even more curious than I. He actually had genetic testing done at one point to figure out our ancestry on my mom’s side.

After one particularly long conversation about the adoption and the possibility of finding my mom’s birth family, she told me she didn’t think she’d ever be able to look for them simply because of the mental and emotional energy it would take. I asked her if she would be upset if I looked for them and she said no.

She didn’t actually think I’d look.

Lucky for me, Wisconsin State Law allows for offspring of adoptees to request a copy of the original adoption record. The catch is that they remove all identifying information such as names, locations and birth dates. They leave in birth years, but they remove months and days. So in the last few days of February, I filled out and sent in my application, expecting it to take a few months. I didn’t tell my mom and I was planning to read the adoption record and, in a way, screen it to see if there was any information that I thought might be too much for her to handle. I figured I’d get it just in time for Mother’s Day and I was going to wrap it for her as a gift.

Three weeks later, I received her adoption record. I read it immediately and after deciding there was nothing she would be unable to handle, I took the envelope and walked up to my mom. She looked at me and I held the packet out to her. I said, “I have something for you and if you don’t want to read it, that’s fine, you don’t have to. But I think you might want to read it.” She asked me what it was and I replied, “It’s your adoption record.”

She immediately took the packet to the living room and settled into a chair to read the 28 pages that chronicled the first year of her life. After she finished reading it, she said to me, “I need to look for them” and so continued our journey. She sent in her application for contact with her birth mother and we, again, expected it to take quite awhile for anything to happen simply because the Department of Children and Families then has to contact the birth mother and wait for a response, etc. However, our caseworker called two days after we mailed the application in. My mom’s birth mother was deceased. She died in 1981 at the age of 50.

In most cases, this would be a dead-end. Wisconsin State Law allows for adult adoptees to look for birth parents (in my mom’s case, she could only legally search for her birth mother because paternity was never legally established) and that’s really about it. Biological siblings may not look for each other. When the parent(s) is/are deceased, they cannot give permission for the release of information, so it’s the end of the line.

But not in our case.

As I said, my mom’s birth mother died in 1981 at the age of 50. She died from Ovarian Cancer. Due to her young age and the cause of death, our caseworker felt strongly that we petition the court so that we could receive contact information for my mom’s siblings (the adoption record listed three older siblings – two girls and a boy) so that we could get an updated medical history. Our caseworker said she would take care of filing the paperwork and she was fairly certain it would be approved, but it usually takes three to four weeks.

Fast-forward 8 days and my mom gets a call. The court order was granted and we had a name. We had lots of names. We had her mother’s name, the name my mom was given at birth, her older sisters’ names, her (potential) father’s name. All we had to do was contact one of them. My mom chose her older sister, Sally. She just had a feeling that she would be the right one to contact. She called and left a message on her answering machine on Friday, May 4 at around 5:30 p.m. and at 8:08 p.m. her phone rang. Sally had received her message.

Turns out Sally and their older sister, Judy, knew that my mom existed. A few years ago, their father (my mom’s potential father) told Judy and Judy told Sally. My mom and Aunt Sally (Weird!) talked for about an hour-and-a-half that Friday evening. I even got to talk to Sally for about 10 minutes! Sally was very open and warm and welcoming. This was the reception my mom thought would never happen.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good. As I said, my grandmother died from Ovarian Cancer. We also learned that Judy has had breast cancer twice. Both Judy and Sally decided a few years ago to have genetic testing done for the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 gene mutation, which research shows is a genetic link for “female cancers” (ovarian, breast, uterine). Judy tested positive, meaning she has the mutation, and Sally tested negative. My mom and I are both getting tested soon. We think my mom will be negative since she is 7 years older than both her mother and sister when they were diagnosed, but we won’t know until we have the test done.

I’m not going to lie, it makes me a little anxious to think about. My maternal grandmother died from Ovarian Cancer. My maternal aunt has had breast cancer twice. My paternal grandmother had 3 separate cancers (meaning they did not metastasize from one to the next). She had lymphoma, uterine cancer and colon cancer. My paternal aunt has had uterine cancer. The big question here is the uterine, breast, and ovarian – that’s 3 separate cancers that are believed to have some link in common (they’re all “female cancers” as I mentioned). A family history is not a guarantee, but it’s also not a good sign.

I suppose we’ll just have to get the testing done and see what it says. I’d never really thought about the possibility of Ovarian Cancer or Breast Cancer simply because there was never a family history (that I knew of). Does this new knowledge change all of that? I don’t know. It certainly makes me worry a little more.

I’ve done a lot more reading lately (probably more than most people should) about various cancers and genetics. As I said, a family history isn’t a guarantee, as only 10% of cancers are genetically-linked while 90% are sporadic. However, the fact that we had no idea of the family history is a little scary. We’ll just have to wait and see, but for now, I’m trying to stay optimistic and enjoy getting to know my new family members 🙂

(By the way – my mom looks JUST like her mom. It’s weird to see her look like someone else! Might post a picture sometime if she’ll let me…)

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No glutes?!

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Well, yesterday was quite a day. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Had an early-morning appointment with my Integrative Medicine Doctor yesterday. My primary care doc referred me ’cause I’ve been exhausted for about forever and I’ve had chronic sinus infections for almost 10 years now and no tests ever come back abnormal. My thyroid has been tested a bajillion times and it’s always “normal”. Anyway, this guy, Dr. Rakel, actually wrote the book on integrative medicine. Literally. He’s the co-author on the leading textbook for Integrative Medicine. Pretty cool, right?

So I went to see him for a follow-up appointment yesterday and we talked about a bunch of different things and he asked me about food allergies and sensitivities. I told him I’d tried a dairy-free diet twice because it had been mentioned in the past as a possible cause for my sinus infections. He asked about a gluten-free diet and I told him I haven’t tried that… yet. He explained to me how a gluten intolerance or sensitivity could be the cause of my sinus infections and how it all works, blah blah blah. He told me to give a gluten-free diet a try for a few weeks to see if it helps with my symptoms and I told him I would. No glutes for this girl for the next 2 weeks.

So today is day 1 with no gluten, which means tomorrow is going to suck. Apparently, your body goes through a withdrawal of sorts and on days 2 and 3, your symptoms tend to get worse. Fantastic.

I scheduled my appointment first-thing in the morning so that I might be a little late to work, but not much. Responsible and considerate, right? Tell that to my tire. When I came out of the doctor’s office and got to my car, I noticed my front driver’s side tire looked low. I had noticed a few days earlier that there was a ka-thunk, ka-thunk noise coming from that area, so I checked the tire and didn’t notice anything and the pressure was fine, so I went about my weekend. Unfortunately, when I checked my tire pressure outside the doctor’s office, it was less than half of what it should be and this time, I was able to see a big stupid screw cozily imbedded in my BRAND. NEW. TIRE.

>:-O !!!!!!

So I get on the phone and call the dealer where I got my tires to see if they could fix it for me and they couldn’t fit me in until that afternoon, so I made the appointment and called my dad and blah blah blah, long story short, I cancelled my appointment at the dealer and went to a Firestone at the mall (luckily only a mile-and-a-half away with a 30 MPH speed limit so I didn’t have to put my spare on, though I do know how!). I left my car there and went to the mall to waste my entire morning and part of my afternoon until I got a phone call. The screw was too close to the sidewall and they couldn’t patch it. I needed a new tire. Expletives were said. My dad was called. I got a another, ever-so-slightly newer tire and was on my way. Luckily, my mom is smart and asked me if I could get my old tire back from them to see if there was any possibility of it being fixed (the dealer said they’ve had success with some new technique or something), so I did get it back and eventually drove home. That evening, I showed it to my dad and he said  that HE could fix it! GRRRRRRRR. So now I have about a thousand brand new tires sitting around (well, okay, just one extra one).

I really hate being a young female because even though I do know more about cars than most girls (and boys) my age, I still tend to get taken advantage of and it pisses me off. What is it about young women that makes people think they can take advantage of them? Why can’t people just be honest with each other? It would make the world a much nicer place (with fewer tires).

Okay, that’s enough randomness about nothing for one day. Check back tomorrow for a gluten-free induced, rage-infused blog post about carbs and how much I miss them!

Mother’s Day

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My mom got her Master’s in 2007 and I couldn’t have been more proud of her!

I’d just like to start by saying I have the best mom in the entire world. I know that a lot of people say that and I’m sure they mean what they say, but they’re all wrong. I truly do have the best mom in the entire world. She is one of my best friends and I simply cannot imagine my life without her.

So, we have this holiday every year, once a year to honor moms and show them how much we love them. I, personally, try to show my mom how much I love her as often as I can. Sure, I’m planning to make my mom breakfast and have a nice dinner (and I got her a gift: lessons to get scuba certified – something she’s wanted to do!), but I also try to do those things throughout the year, because let’s face it, she did those things for me for how many years?

So this Mother’s Day, make your mom some pancakes and buy her some flowers. But tomorrow, remember to tell her you love her and maybe next week, remind her again. Take her out for lunch a month from now. I think moms are underappreciated and I plan to make sure my mom knows that she’s loved and cherished and needed by me and my brothers every single day.

Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

Meeting Uncle Bob

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It’s been a few very exciting months for my family.

Let me give a very brief summary of the events of the last two months:

My mother was adopted when she was three months old and a week ago, we found her biological family. Her birth mother is deceased and we aren’t sure who her father is, but we found her siblings (whether they are full siblings or half siblings is yet to be determined, but in birth order, there’s Judy, Sally, Don, (my mom), and Scott). She’s had a few long conversations with her older sister, Sally. She has yet to speak with her oldest sister, Judy, but we think they’re both just taking a little time to process things. Sally is currently living and working in Colorado until she retires in 13 months, but her husband still lives in Janesville, about 45 minutes from us.

Since Sally won’t be back in Wisconsin until July, arrangements were made for Bob and my mom to meet. Lucky for me I work with my mom, so I was there when she met her brother-in-law for the first time! My mom and I both sat down with Bob and talked for a few hours. It was so nice, yet so weird, to be getting to know him and his family -our family. As he said, “A half hour ago on the street, we would have walked right by each other, perfect strangers.”

Bob seems like a really great guy and I can’t wait to get to know him more and to meet the rest of my mom’s biological family! I now have an army of relatives I didn’t even know existed, including four more cousins!

I’ve been trying to decide just how much I should write in here about this journey. It’s not really my story to tell, it’s my mom’s. At the same time, it affects me and my interest in starting to blog again was so that I could have a record of my life that I can look back on. We’ll see, I may write more about things, I may not. I’m sure I’ll write more when my mom meets her other relatives for the first time.

For now, though, I’m off to lie in bed and watch Spongebob. I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather lately 😦