Rhode Island Monthly Breast Health 2011 : Page 4

SP ECIAL AD VER TISIN G SE CTI O N A Diffi cult Conversation continued from page 103 Storey says there’s no singular right way, and it really depends on your kids. “Know your kids,” she says, “but never dump it on them.” In addition to knowing your children, Storey says it is important to reassure them that they can and should come to you with questions or concerns. But, she says, don’t force them to talk about it. Even though being honest about your disease seems like a good idea, Storey warns that you should never give your children more informa-tion than they can handle, and you should put it in terms they can understand. How you tell your five-year-old and what you say will be dif-ferent than how you tell your fifteen-year-old. Regardless of how old your children are, it is imperative to “be real and honest in a confident way,” she says. If you are really struggling with trying to tell your children, ask to speak with an oncology social worker where you are receiving your treatment. This professional can help you figure out the best way to tell your children you have cancer. Also, be proactive early in your fight. Make sure you have a good support system in place for you and your children. Furthermore, the hospital where you’re receiv-ing your treatment may have a program spe-cifically designed for children that can give them additional support. For example, Women & In-fants Hospital has the Kids Talk program, which is a support group for children and teens that have a loved one, family member or friend with Sister-Sister Mass research study is 50,000 sisters strong. IN THE CLASSIC FIFTIES MOVIE White Christmas , Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen make Irving Berlin’s “Sisters” a song to remem-ber. The tongue and cheek lyrics describe how sisters stick together and take care of one another. But what happens when sisters are diagnosed with breast cancer? It’s a ques-tion some siblings have to face, including sisters Rosamary and Joanna. is being conducted in the United States and Puerto Rico, is following 50,000 women ages thirty-five to seventy-four for ten years. Con-ducted by the National Institute of Environ-mental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the study examines how certain environmental and genetic factors may aff ect a woman’s chance of developing cancer. The hope is that the in-formation gathered will point to reasons why certain women get breast cancer so recom-mendations can be made to prevent the disease and promote good health among women. Rosamary was diagnosed with breast can-cer four years after Joanna, but Susanna never developed the disease. There is no history of breast cancer in their family, even among their relatives still living in Italy. With-out an obvious genetic predisposition to the disease, Rosamary wonders whether her and Joanna’s cancer might be linked to their envi-ronment. One of the questions the study asks its participants is how close they lived to a dry cleaner. “We lived right behind a dry cleaner,” says Rosamary. “And we lived near the Pocasset River, which fl oods,” adds Joanna. One can speculate that environment played a role in the fate dealt these two American born sisters. Further speculation can be made that Susanna never developed breast cancer because she was almost ten when she came to the United States, and she was fi ft een when they moved to the house near the dry cleaners. However, all of it is just that — speculation. Without proof, none of it is certain. One thing is certain: These sisters have incredible attitudes for all they’ve been through, and like the song, “There were never such devoted sisters.” African-American women under the age of forty have a higher incidence of breast cancer than Caucasian women. Their parents, along with their brother and older sister, Susanna, emigrated from a small town in northern Italy a year before Rosamary was born. The family lived in Providence for almost fi ve years before moving to Cranston just before Joanna was born. In true Italian fashion, their father raised rabbits and had a vegetable garden with grapevines. Their family canned the food they grew and their mother cooked from scratch. At age forty, Joanna was the fi rst to be di-agnosed. The cancer was found on her initial screening mammogram. As she endured surgery, two rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Rosamary and Susanna joined the Sister Study, the largest and most compre-hensive study of its kind to date. Sister Study participants are sisters of breast cancer survivors. The long-term study, which Taylor Fletcher, 2010 A Diffi cult Conversation continued on page 106 » 104 RHODE ISLAND MONTHLY l OCTOBER 2011

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