My name is LeAnne Smelser Daringer, and I’m AliveAndKickn in Southern California! I grew up knowing that we had a lot of cancer in my Dad’s family. My great-grandfather and grandfather both died on the same day of colorectal cancers—and my grandfather was only 34 years old. One of my Dad’s older brothers died at age 26 of colon cancer. Then reality hit home when my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died at the age of 42. It was devastating for our family, to say the least. As one of six siblings, we often wondered about what kind of cancer we would each end up getting.
Cancer hit my generation when my brother developed colon cancer when he was 31. After a recurrence of cancerous polyps less than a year after his initial surgery, he had a total colectomy. It was the right decision—he is a 25-year cancer survivor! My second oldest sister passed away in 2005 after a long, debilitating illness. Her doctor suspected that she had colon or stomach cancer at death because of issues with her digestive system. My oldest sister was then diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2007 at age 59. Thankfully, she is also a survivor, with no cancer recurrences!
We finally found out that our family has Lynch Syndrome when my oldest sister’s daughter developed colon cancer in 2011 at age 34. Her gastro doctor recognized our family’s extensive history of primarily colorectal cancers and my sister’s endometrial cancer as classic Lynch Syndrome patterns. Genetic testing confirmed that to be true. Thankfully two of my sisters do not have Lynch Syndrome, so they and their children and grandchildren are spared from having to live their lives with this condition. Other family members have subsequently been tested, and 7 of 14 have been diagnosed with Lynch.
Getting my Lynch diagnosis four years ago was difficult initially because I’ve never had cancer. But I made a decision right away to take charge of my health and not give in to a fatalistic attitude. Less than two months after my diagnosis I had a complete hysterectomy and oophorectomy to reduce my risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers. I still get year well-woman checkups, including mammograms.
I am vigilant to get my yearly screenings done for Lynch Syndrome. I’ve had several precancerous polyps removed from my colon and stomach, but they were removed before they had a chance to turn into cancer. Earlier this year I was also diagnosed with Muir Torre Syndrome, the skin portion of Lynch Syndrome. I had two surgeries in three months to remove sebaceous adenomas from my face. Thankfully we found them before they had a chance to develop into full-blown skin cancers. I am now extra vigilant in checking my skin for any changes and I see my skin cancer specialist every six months for full body skin checkups.
Do I worry about getting cancers caused by my genetic defect? Sure, who wouldn’t? But I have chosen instead to embrace my life each day and recognize it as a gift. I’m a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. And I’m AliveAndKickn!
The Blue Genes Bash LA on Monday Jan 30th was truly a fabulous event! Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time and the opportunity to really get educated about our important cause.