Living with cancer blog

Join a live discussion on family history

By Lonnie Fynskov, R.N. November 8, 2016

Grandma Mabel had a wonderful gift for storytelling. During her 99 years of life, she had many amazing experiences that later became favorite family memories. She was a nurse during an era when physicians not only made house calls, but they did it with a horse and buggy.

Mabel also was the eldest child in a farm family of 15 children which meant she was a second mother to several of her siblings before she actually even became a teenager herself.

When she would visit for holidays, we loved to hear her talk about her experiences as a young nurse. She told about situations where she would assist the doctor with a home birth and then spend two weeks living with the family because "for some reason, that mom always delivered her babies too early".

She also spoke of the recurrent heartbreak one family endured because every one of the males died before the age of 45 from what they suspected was a heart condition. With few interventions or screening tests available, the future felt uncertain and frightening for some of her patients and their families.

Have you ever wished you knew more about your family health history? I always thought there was a significant issue with cancer in my extended family, but it wasn't until a consultation regarding additional testing that I realized how little history I actually knew.

Questions surfaced: "What was the primary type of cancer they had? How old were they at the age of onset? Did they have treatment?" I was encouraged to talk to my relatives to get a better picture of our family health history as a way to guide the discussion about screening and testing.

Knowing your family history is important for your future health. Just in time for Thanksgiving, join Mayo Clinic certified genetic counselor Jessica Jackson on Nov.18th at 11:00 a.m. EST via Mayo Clinic's Facebook page ( for a Facebook Live presentation with a virtual discussion to follow regarding the importance of family history.

Ask questions, take notes and begin a new tradition on Thanksgiving, the nation's annual Family Health History Day. It's important to have a conversation about your family's health history. What you learn might surprise you — and it may save a life.

To view the Facebook Live presentation, log in to Facebook and follow Mayo Clinic's page. Watch for a notification or go to the page on Nov. 18th.


Lonnie J. Fynskov

Nov. 08, 2016