Susan Ryncavage’s Story

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Susan’s Story

If you’re reading this, you’re here to help, and we thank you eternally for that ! Our beloved Susan Ryncavage and her precious family are in need of our help and support right now in a very challenging time. Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2016, check out Susan’s story at Susan Ryncavage’s MedGift Support Page.

The BRCA Genes and Their Link To Breast and Ovarian Cancer

The media has brought a lot of attention to BRCA12the BRCA genes in the past few years. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and the Kardashian family have highlighted their experiences and their motivations for pursuing genetic testing. Because of this growing attention, it is important to talk about the truths and myths of the BRCA genes.

The majority of cancers are not hereditary, or due to a broken gene that is passed down through the family. In fact, only 5-10% of breast cancers and approximately 25% of ovarian cancers are thought to be due to a broken gene that a person is born with. The BRCA genes account for the majority of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, but there are other genes that are also associated with these cancers.

Both men and women have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. When these genes are working properly, they help protect us from cancer. However, if there is a genetic alteration, or mutation, in these BRCA genes, it causes them to become broken and they can no longer effectively protect us from cancer. When the BRCA genes are broken, there is a significant increase in a woman’s risk to develop breast, ovarian, and other cancers. Men can also have broken BRCA genes, which increases their risk for male breast, prostate, and other cancers. Genetic testing is able to detect mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. A person who has a broken BRCA gene has a 50% chance of passing it on to each of their children.

Meeting with a genetic counselor is the best way to determine if a person should pursue genetic testing. Genetic counselors are board-certified professionals with special expertise in genetics. These healthcare professionals are able to assess the likelihood of a hereditary cancer risk in the family, provide education on genetic testing options, discuss the implications, benefits, and limitations of genetic testing for the patient and their family members, and to discuss insurance and legal protections. Genetic counselors are also able to address the myths and misconceptions associated with genetic testing.

For most patients, genetic counseling and testing is empowering. It provides patients with the opportunity to be proactive with their health and/or the health of their family members. However, it is important to discuss the appropriateness and implications of genetic testing with a genetic counselor in order to determine if genetic testing is right for you.

Other types of cancers, including colon, pancreatic, stomach, and more rare cancers, can also be associated with different hereditary causes. A genetic counselor is able to assess your personal and family history to make sure that you are tested for the right genes.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with a genetic counselor, please visit www.nsgc.org to find a genetic counselor in your area.

Ashley Runyon, MS
Genetic Counselor
Northside Hospital Cancer Institute
Hereditary Cancer Program in Atlanta, GA

She Walked The MILE

Diem Brown,  "A passionate advocate  for those experiencing health related hardships"
Diem Brown, “A passionate advocate for those experiencing health related hardships”

In the last few months of her life Diem Brown prayed for a cure. She had battled cancer twice before and it was back. Although she would never say it, I am certain she knew it did not look good …we all knew. In the last few days of her life she prayed for a miracle, not because she didn’t want to die,  because she desperately wanted to live. There was no cure….there was no miracle.

Diem was driven to unlock the desire and willingness in each of us to help others, she had walked the mile in their shoes. She opened our heart with her conviction to build a web-based destination she named MedGift for that purpose. There were four of us who joined hands to make it happen and she held our hands until the very end. In spite of what she was going through she seldom missed one of our regular Thursday status calls. We are steadfastly committed to MedGift and Diem’s dream because we share her belief there is a silent crisis in our country of people disconnected from those who care and love them.

The MedGift Voice is an additional path to help bring an end to silence. Its intended to not only be our voice but we hope yours as well.

Please let us know what you think.

Jim, Cofounder of MedGift

Carpe Diem, Carpe MedGift

Having a great time with Diem!
Having a great time with Diem!

Everyone grieves in different ways. However, I believe we all have one universal mission after the loss of a friend or loved one and that is to carry on their legacy and to keep their memory alive. For some it’s planting a tree, or buying a bench in their name, for others it’s running for a charity in their honor. For my family and me it’s following through with Diem’s life passion which was helping patients connect to those that care through her creation, MedGift.Com.

If you followed Diem’s story you know she came up with the concept of MedGift after being diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. She sat in her hospital room surrounded by friends, family and hundreds of dollars’ worth of flowers, balloons and treats. She couldn’t help but think of the costly and stressful road ahead and whether the support she had in the hospital would follow her journey as a patient. The sad truth is that many times it doesn’t. Inevitably,  the initial super rally from friends and family wanes. They go back to school, work, their own problems and lives, life keeps moving. All the while, the patient undergoing the hardship is still suffering, adopting to their new reality of hospital rooms, appointments, bills, piles of paperwork, and pain while riding an emotional roller coaster. More often than not the patient is too proud or uncomfortable to reach out for help, whether it be physical, emotional or financial. That’s where MedGift comes in. Diem wanted a place for the paitent to vent their feelings, a place where they could list their needs, schedules, and updates, to not feel like a burden and always have that super rally of support at their fingertips.

I look forward to the future of MedGift, to reading about as many of you as I can through the campaigns you start. Maybe you start one for yourself, maybe you start one for a loved one, or a dear friend in need. MedGift can help. I also look forward to this blog, The MedGift Voice, being a place where patients, caregivers and advocates can come start discussions, ask questions, get answers and feel support. We are all in this together. I believe in MedGift, not just because it’s part of who my sister was but because my family and I needed it during some of the darkest hours, days and months of our lives.  That’s support, in every sense of the word.

Megan Brown