family history of diabetes and cancer

I Got the Sugar!

Why Don’t Black Women Talk about Breast Cancer?

Were you shocked to find out that you have breast cancer? Were you even more shocked to learn that women in your family also had breast cancer but you never knew about it? Well, you’re not the only one!


Why is it so hard for Black families to talk about certain things with each other? Black women, why is it so hard to learn about our bodies from our mothers? I had a decent relationship with my mom when I was growing up but one thing we hardly discussed were our bodies, especially when it came to women issues. I learned most things about my body, like shaving and the difference between pads and tampons, from my friends and reading books. Yet, everybody in the family knew when someone had diabetes or a heart problem.

“I got the sugar!” was something I heard all the time when I was a little girl. If you’re from the South, you probably heard your parents or aunts and uncles talking about so and so  had ‘the sugar’. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that the sugar was really diabetes. Don’t you just love southern country talk! Diabetes and high blood pressure are the known killers in my family. Breast cancer was not on the list.Black women talk about breast cancerWhy is the subject of breast cancer top secret? When I read the stories of other breast cancer survivors they mention whether they had a family history of breast cancer. And they also know if they are a carrier of one of the breast cancer genes. The common theme here is that these are the stories of white women. Why don’t we talk about breast cancer in Black families?

I never knew that any of the women in my family had breast cancer. At least not until I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer at 38 years old. After I told my mom the devastating news and she reassured me that I would would be okay, she went on a mission to talk to the women in our family about their medical histories. She found out that a few women on both sides of the family had fought breast cancer but they were much older, in their late fifties and sixties, when they were diagnosed. 

Finding out that some older women in my family had breast cancer is cause for me to be tested for the breast cancer genes (these genes are called BRCA1 and BRCA2). Testing positive for either of these genes makes you a higher risk for getting breast cancer.

I have not taken the genetic test yet. Part of me doesn’t want to know. If I were to test positive, I think my oncologist would suggest that I get my noncancerous breast removed followed by chemotherapy. And I am not ready for that yet. Until then, I’ll just roll the dice and whatever is meant to be will be.

Did your family openly talk about breast cancer and other women-related diseases? Have you considered genetic testing? Let us know; we’d love to hear from you!

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