My DNA Story

By Janet Prince

DNAI know you have all seen the ads on TV for the Ancestry.com and 23&Me DNA kits, especially over the holidays.  In 2017, I had some family members receive an Ancestry.com kit for Christmas. They took the test and sent off the vials in January 2018 hoping to learn more about their ancestry, where they came from, and when. When they received the results, they were surprised!  A first cousin we had no idea about was a very strong match above all others throughout our family.

This is where my DNA story began, but before I go in to what we found, I want to share how I feel about DNA testing and why I feel that way.  Keep in mind that everyone has their own opinion, and that must be respected.

As most of you know, I am a 16-year breast cancer survivor, and I lost my mother to ovarian cancer.  Both of us were diagnosed in 2003 just five months apart.  We met with a genetics counselor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in November 2003 and began building a genetic tree of our family members that had any type of cancer.  We were able to determine that the cancer line came from my grandmother’s family where we found breast, brain, lung, cervical, and ovarian cancer.  Taking this test was very important to both of us because of my two daughters.  I have always been a believer in knowing your health history, and I especially wanted my girls to know theirs as they became young women.  Since we did our testing, many new breast cancer genes have been identified, so I will be having an updated DNA test this spring.

 

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My belief in DNA testing is very strong.  By taking this DNA test, I was able to rest at ease knowing that neither my mother nor I carried the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.  In addition, the results were something that my family members could use.  They learned the history of aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, and children that had all been diagnosed with a type of cancer.  Everyone accepted the results of this test and never questioned if they were true.

Now knowing how I feel about DNA testing, I want to share the story of finding our new first cousin.  When my family members received their results, someone was at the top of the list (meaning they are your strongest match) who they didn’t know and had never heard of.  This person reached out to my family to see how they were related, and at first, my family members seemed thrilled to have a new cousin. When they called me with the news, they were excited to learn more and to hopefully meet her because as luck would have it, she has a step-sister who lives in the Upstate of South Carolina, and she was planning a trip there later in the spring. Since my mother died, I have been the keeper of the trunks that belonged to my uncle as well as one that belonged to my grandparents. Both trunks were filled with letters, postcards, and my uncle’s US Marine uniforms with all his medals.  My family asked if they could go through the trunks to verify the connection between my uncle and her mother.  I was more than happy to do this because I was curious to know the connection myself.

Last spring, our new cousin, Linda, traveled to South Carolina from Nevada, and I was so excited to meet her.  Linda came and spent an afternoon with me, and we went through the trunks.  We were elated when we found a note with her mother’s name and telephone number on it!  It was the confirmation she had been looking for all her life trying to find out where she came from.  She had found “home.”  I knew when I opened the front door that Linda was a part of my family.  We have the same cheeks, her mannerisms are much like my mother’s, and when I hugged her, it was like hugging my mother again.  She is definitely a member of my family.  After looking through the trunks, I took Linda to visit her father’s grave and was honored to share this moment with her.

While she was here, Gary and I had a cookout for my other family members to come and meet Linda and her “sister” Kathy (Linda has four step or half-sisters, but they only call themselves sisters not anything else).  We had a wonderful time and even FaceTimed with another sister of hers who lives in Texas and loves genealogy.  She started asking about other names on Linda’s tree that they didn’t know, and when she started calling out names of my great-aunts and second and third cousins in Alabama, it sealed in my heart that Linda was a member of my family.  We hugged, cried, and laughed with joy.  I look at Linda as a gift and another connection to my mother.

Unfortunately, only one of my cousins came to meet Linda that night, which broke my heart for her.  Their once excitement had turned into not believing in the validity of the testing, and therefore not accepting Linda as part of the family.

UncleLinda, who is my first cousin, was the daughter of an uncle I had who was killed in the Korean War in 1950 at the age of 21. Linda was born five months after his death.  Because my family members chose not to believe the results, I took the Ancestry.com test in June.  When my results came in, my family member who had originally taken the test were first, and Linda came up next followed by both of her children who are my second cousins.  I was so excited to verify that Linda is a part of us.

Linda and I have hours-long phone conversations sharing what our lives have been like.  Like me, Linda is a cancer survivor having been diagnosed with multiple-myeloma in November 2013.  Linda’s mother was killed in a car accident when she was only 9 years old, and I have told her that I believe with all my heart that if my mother and father had known about her, they would have brought her here and raised her as their own.

I don’t know why God brought Linda into my life at this stage in my life, but I am just so Familythankful that He did.  I was so happy to have Linda and Kathy attend Ashlan’s wedding, and seating them with the family was a great joy.  This was the first big “family” event Linda had been able to be a part of, and I wanted her to know how special she was to me and my family.  Knowing she was there brought much comfort to me, and I look forward to spending more time with her and getting to know all her sisters.

DNA matches can either bring big surprises or things you already knew about but with the deeper story.  I encourage everyone to take the DNA test of their choice if nothing more than to know their family health history.  Remember, this is information that can be passed down through the generations. Be prepared for secrets the test may uncover, and remember the person on the paper who you didn’t know about has feelings and deserves to be acknowledged.  Whether you want to build a personal relationship with that person is up to you, but be mindful of your actions because they can hurt someone.

When Spring is on the Horizon!

By Janet Prince

background-ballpen-bloom-920147Spring time is my favorite time of year!  I love the longer days (don’t forget to change your clocks on March 10!), the grass turning green, the flowers starting to bloom, and all the leaves coming back on the trees.  Another way to know that Spring is on the Horizon in Columbia is when you start hearing about all the fun things you can do on the weekend.  Whether it’s a hobby you enjoy or a fundraiser for charities in our area, Columbia is full of great things.

I thought I would share with you some of the great things on the horizon for you to consider doing in our community.  I have attended or participated in many of these activities before, and many of these activities I had no idea about but am now intrigued.  Remember, this is just a sampling of events from our immediate area, but you can always go online and find many, many more.

I hope you will get out and enjoy some of these with your family or your best friends!

March 2019

clover-green-leaves-132420.jpgThe Craftsmen’s Spring Classic Art & Craft Festival, March 1 – 3 at the SC State Fairgrounds.  (www.crafshow.com)

Lexington Medical Center Foundation “Aim for Clarity” Sporting Clay Tournament, March 9 at Palmetto State Armory course in Swansea.  For more information contact Beth Wingard at ebwingard1@lexhealth.org

Rock Horry Picture Show Festival, Friday, March 15, 6:00 p.m. at the Historic Columbia Speedway.

St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Five Points, March 16, 2019.

Palmetto Sportsmen’s Classic, March 22-24 at the SC State Fairgrounds.  (www.psc@dnr.sc.gov)

GFWC Jr. Woman’s Club of Columbia “Baubles & Bubbles” Brunch, March 23 from 11am – 2pm at the Sims Stackhouse Mansion, 1511 Laurel Street…more information on the Junior Woman’s Club of Columbia Facebook page.

GFWC Lexington Woman’s Club 35th Annual Charity Golf Tournament, March 25 at the Country Club of Lexington…more information on the Lexington Woman’s Club Facebook page.

Spring Arts & Craft Show, March 30, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Lexington Middle School.

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River Rocks 2019 by the Congaree Riverkeeper, April 13, noon – 8:00 p.m., at the Congaree River near Founder’s Park, 555 Williams Street, Columbia.

“Hippie Fest,” April 20 at the Historic Columbia Speedway in Cayce.

Lexington Medical Center Foundation McDaniel’s Golf Classic “Campaign for Clarity” Gala, April 24 and 26 at the Columbia Metro Convention Center. For more information LMCFoundation@lexhealth.org

GFWC Chapin Woman’s Club Fabulous Flamingo Fling, April 26 at the Timberlake Clubhouse.  For more information visit www.chapinwomansclub.com

 

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GFWC Woman’s Club of Cayce “Hot Flash 5K at Timmerman Trail, May 4.  Signup at www.StrictlyRunning.com or visit the Woman’s Club of Cayce Facebook page.

GFWC Celebrating “Tote-ally” Amazing Women at the Sims Stackhouse Mansion, May 11, 10:00 a.m. – noon at 1511 Laurel Street.  Tickets are just $10 and can be purchased at the door.

Lexington Wine Walk, May 11, 6:00 p.m. at the Icehouse Amphitheater.

Lexington Medical Center 2019 Governor’s Cup Road Race, May 17-18, ½ marathon, 5K run/walk, Main Street Mile, Kid’s 1-Mile Run.  For more information visit www.lmcfoundation@lexhealth.org

 

Remember this is just a sampling of fun things to plan and do this spring.  Get out and enjoy yourselves!

The Importance of a “Best Girlfriend” No Matter Your Age

By Janet Prince

Women need to have a “best girlfriend” just as much as younger girls do.  You know, the type of friend you can call on at any time day or night and know she will be there for you.  I am very blessed to have several “girlfriends” in my life.

Recently, my best friend sat with my daughters while I had surgery and then helped them get me home and settled.  Gary was away on his “bucket list trip,” so it was up to the girls to take care of me until he returned.  Then, she was with me again on the day of our daughter’s wedding rehearsal and dinner when I had to go back to surgery.  We were supposed to be spending that day decorating for the wedding, not at the surgery yarn piccenter, but thankfully I was able to attend both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding!

Back to my best friend, Susan.  She always takes the time to pitch in and help me, and she is always there when I call.  She has prayed for me through many surgeries and challenges over the past 18 years.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without her in my corner.  Because I don’t have any sisters, I am thankful that God brought us together all those years ago at the MOM program at Holland Avenue Baptist Church.  We have watched each other’s children grow into young adults and teenagers and have shared many special events in the kids’ lives.  We are “family” in every sense of the word.

friends 1I also have my best girlfriends in GFWC-SC.  I am blessed and very fortunate to have four women in my life who I know are there for me and lift me up when I am feeling down.  When the decorations needed to go up for the wedding, Jackie was there with her husband helping Ashlan’s new mother-in-law, Marsha, and Gary make everything perfect.  Jackie and Tammy gave a wonderful brunch for Ashlan and her bridesmaids which I didn’t get to attend.  Tammy also helped the bridal party put makeup on the flower girls and made sure they looked beautiful. Most importantly, Jackie, Laurie, Marian, and Tammy weren’t only there to witness Ashlan’s marriage to Joe, but also to show their love and support for me.  The “Fab-Four” are my travel companions when attending GFWC conventions and board meetings.  We enjoy the meetings, but we more so enjoy the time friends 2we get to spend together talking and laughing.  We are true “girlfriends” in our hearts.

I hope you all are as blessed as I am with those special “girlfriends” in your life.  If you are, let them know how much your relationship means to you.  Plan a day of shopping, going to a play, or trying your hand at a new craft.  Make it fun and enjoy the laughs you have together!

New Years’ Day is every day

By Janet Prince

Each year as one year comes to an end and the next begins we all set goals for ourselves…lose weight, exercise more, etc.  Then about a week into the new year, the goals are starting to fall by the wayside and we say we will try again next year.

Well, with each dawning morning comes the start of a new year whether its January 1st or April 30th.   Each day brings us new opportunities to be better and to do better with our lives.  Don’t look at your goals as a failure, look at them as another opportunity to try again to succeed.

This year I have decided to set goals for myself that are more inward focused instead outward for the world to see.  I have always enjoyed journaling and plan to return to that in 2019.  When my mother passed away in 2010, I journaled every night for three years.  Each night was a letter to her sharing about my day, asking for advice and letting her know how much I missed and needed her, as well as letting my tear drops fall freely.  Journaling provided me a way to heal my broken heart and it worked.  2018 was a very hard year for me emotionally and physically.  The physical will heal over time, but the emotional hurt I experienced will live with me forever.  Returning to journaling and writing a letter each night to my mother will help me heal in both.  The act of putting pen to paper and words that will live on far beyond me is sharing a roadmap of my life for my girls.  Although they have walked with me through the good and the bad times, they will be able to read how I truly felt inside about events that happened to me and to them.  If you have never journaled, I encourage you to try it.  You can journal everyday or once a week or even once a month.  Journaling is a place to share the hard times, but also the very happy times in your life.

booksAnother goal I am setting is to read more books.  Many enjoy reading on a Kindle or an I-pad or even their phone, but I’m old fashioned and love to hold a book in my hand and feel the pages.  I have a stack of books on my nightstand that I thought I would read while I was healing from my back surgery this past summer, but because it was so painful, I couldn’t concentrate.  Now that I’m six months into my 18-month recovery, reading brings me joy again!

As always, volunteering is a huge part of my life.  My club, the Woman’s Club of the Midlands, just made and donated a bookshelf filled with books and magazines to Lexington Medical Center Oncology.  The books and magazines are for the patients, as well as their caregivers, when they are receiving their treatments.  The books are there for them to borrow and will be added to each month.  This is a project that was so very simple but will bring such joy to so many.  I encourage you to find a place where you can volunteer so you can feel the joy that giving brings to your life.

2019 is beginning on a very happy note for our family as our oldest daughter is getting married on the 4th!  Fireworks will not only be fired off on New Year’s Eve, but also as we send her off to her happily ever after!

I wish you all a very happy 2019 and encourage you to set goals that make you happy and that are just for you!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

By Janet Prince

Right now, we hear that everywhere we go….but the most wonderful time of the year brings added stress to most women.  We are so busy shopping, planning and wanting to make everything perfect for our loved ones that we forget about taking care of ourselves.  While we love giving to those in need through food drives, toy drives, and secret Santa’s, we also need to take time out for ourselves and enjoy this wonderful season.

Do you have a hobby or maybe have had your interest piqued in a hobby but just have not made time for it?  If you are like me, I feel selfish at times when I take time out for myself.  But in reality, no one in my family sees it that way.  By taking time out for myself, it gives me time to decompress and just think of what I am doing at the moment.  Taking time out for yourself can mean enjoying a great book, cross stitching, or shopping!  All things you can do on your own.  But taking a time out for yourself is so much more fun when you do it with your girlfriends!

daughtersRecently I discovered the wonderful new locally owned business in Lexington, AR Workshop.  I have taken several classes there with each one being different.  It is a great place to go with your friends and spend a few hours making something for yourself or as a gift and enjoying the fellowship of other women.  My latest project I attempted was making the big chunky blankets you see all over Facebook.  I went there recently with my two daughters, my best friend and her daughter and a friend of my oldest from grad school.  Needless to say, it was an afternoon of laughter and sharing and then walking away with a new blanket in our hands.  Now, I must be honest.  I was able to start my blanket, but had to have Ashley, the owner, and my youngest daughter finish it for me.  I am five months in to an 18-month recovery from back surgery and I just couldn’t hold out.  But I have to say my blanket turned out beautiful.

The making of blankets is now something both of my daughters have taken up and are making for Christmas gifts.  Don’t we all love a gift made by hand…which means it was made with love.

I encourage you to find a hobby that make you smile inside!  Then take that new-found passion and share it with others.

I hope you all enjoy the holidays surrounded by your families and loved ones from near and far.  As for my household, we are in the final countdown for my oldest daughters’ wedding right after the first of the year (can you say more stress!), but I have enjoyed every moment of helping her plan.  At the time of the wedding I will be exactly six months out from my back surgery and I am praying I will be able to walk up right and hold out for all of the celebration that night!

From my home to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year,

Janet

Why Volunteer

By Janet Prince

Saying “yes” to being asked to volunteer is a very personal decision.  Everyone that volunteers do so for very different reasons.  I do it for many reasons.  Being a homemaker with grown or almost grown children allows me the opportunity to give of my time and my resources.  But most of all it gives me a sense of belonging to a “sisterhood” that I get so much more from than I could ever give.quote

Many say “no” to volunteering for many reasons, such as they don’t have the time, it doesn’t fit in their schedule, or they think that means more meetings.  Well, for a volunteer organization to run smoothly, meetings are involved.  However, individuals can choose how involved they want to be…do they aspire to be a chairman of the club/group, or maybe an officer on a higher level or do they want to just be a “worker bee” behind the scenes.  Each job level is just as important as the other.

When I began volunteering with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC.org), I had much to learn.  My club, the Woman’s Club of the Midlands, which is a part of GFWC South Carolina (gfwc-sc.org) does many things in our community.  One of our newest projects is collecting books and building a bookshelf to put at Lexington Oncology for those receiving treatments, as well as for their caregivers.  Patients will be able to “borrow” books to help pass the time, which for some can be most of a day.  This is a project that won’t take hours to do or put a stress on our members, but it will mean the world to the patients at Lexington Oncology.  This is just an example of how easy volunteering is to do.

I would encourage you to look at the many organizations in our community that are always looking for volunteers.  Find one that represents what you are passionate about and step forward.  For me knowing that “The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service” I knew I had found my place to serve.  While serving our community through the Woman’s Club of the Midlands, I have received so much in return.  I have been able to develop my leadership skills, by serving as a club officer, chairing committees, and the highest honor of all was to serve as the GFWC-SC State President for 2016-2018.  But most of all I have developed friendships with women across our state and across our country.

picI have just returned from a region meeting in Mississippi with my “Southern Sisters”.  We laughed, we learned, and we shared so that when the weekend was over we all returned to our homes with our cups so full that they are running over with joy.  So, I encourage you not to look at volunteering as work, but as fun while helping others. I guarantee the return you get will be more than you could ever give.

My theme when I was president was “Sharing our Passion…One Step at a Time”.   Find your passion and share your talents and your time in our community…you will never regret it!

The Phone Call That Changed My Life

By Janet Prince

In 2003, Gary and I had it all.  A home on the Avenues in Cayce and the land in West Columbia where we were making plans to build our “forever” home, and our two precious daughters, Ashlan (age 5) and Genna, who was only four months old.  That’s when I received the phone call that changed my life forever.

I was 39 years old when we had Genna and Ashlan was in 5K.  I knew I was extremely tired but attributed that to those two factors plus keeping up with the normal household duties.  But that tiredness was not caused by my normal, happy life, but from a lump found in my right breast.  The night I found the lump I didn’t give it much thought because my Mother had a history of benign fibroid tumors over the years, but I did call my doctor’s office the next morning, April 16, 2003.  They worked me in and my doctor confirmed it was a lump so, he sent me and Gary right away for a mammogram which led to a core needle biopsy.  Thankfully they had had a cancellation that morning and could do the biopsy right then.  The doctor told me they would have the results the next day and someone would call me around 4:00 p.m.

The next day, I took Ashlan to kindergarten and Genna and I went out to do some shopping.  While we were out I saw the poem “What Cancer Cannot Do” in one of the stores.  I thought is this a sign?  No…it couldn’t be.  So, I went on about my day and got home to get Genna down for a nap before going to pick up Ashlan.  They had said the phone call would not come until 4:00 p.m. so I knew Gary would be home by then and I didn’t need to worry because he is my rock.

At 2:00 p.m., I was rocking Genna and the phone rang.  I thought, it can’t be them calling right now…Gary’s not home yet.  But it was the nurse navigator calling to give me the results of my core needle biopsy.  She told me who she was, and I asked if she could hold on for just a minute, so I could put my baby down.  Then I returned to the phone and she proceeded to tell me that I had Ductal Carcinoma.  Not being familiar with cancer diagnosis terms, I asked her what that was.  She said, “Mrs. Prince, you have breast cancer.  We are scheduling you an appointment with an oncologist and a surgeon”.  I asked her to wait a minute, so I could get a piece of paper to write down exactly what she was telling me.  My hands were shaking, and I kept telling myself to just keep breathing.  I took everything down and thanked her for calling me.

So, there it was….I had just been told I had breast cancer.  I went and picked Genna up out of her crib and walked across the street to my neighbor, Paula Taylor, who was and still is a nurse at Lexington Medical Center.  I knocked on her door and with tears streaming down my face I handed Paula my baby girl and went home to call Gary and my Mama.  The whole time thinking, I wasn’t supposed to be alone when this call came in…they weren’t supposed to call me until 4:00!  But they did and now I had to call Gary.

Everything from calling Gary and my Mother, to my best friend, is still a blur.  I just know they were there in a flash to hold me up and to see me through the biggest fight of my and for my life.

My cancer was Stage 2, Triple Negative and very aggressive.  I had a lumpectomy and then started my eight rounds of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation.  I was told that before my second chemo my hair would be gone.  Instead of letting it fall out a little at a time with a baby in the house, I let Ashlan pretend to be a beautician and she cut my hair.  Then when she finished, Gary said “you are going to want me to go ahead and shave it for sure now”.  So, he did, and I cried.  Not that my hair was that awesome, but it was a part of me and it took me a long time before I would look at myself in the mirror.  Thankfully, I had gone to Becky’s Place and purchased a wig and a hat because I didn’t want anyone to see me without my hair.  I was very self-conscious and looking back on it I didn’t need to be because my family loved me just as much without my hair as they did with my hair.

At my first treatment, I met a woman who was a retired teacher from Airport High School.  I don’t remember her name, but I remember what she said to me that day.  She could tell I was scared and asked me if this was my first treatment and I said yes and that I was terrified even though I had my family with me.  One of the drugs they used is red and is sometimes called the “red devil”.  But she told me to look at it as though it were the blood of Jesus going through my veins washing the cancer away.  I have always remembered that and have shared it with others as they are beginning their cancer journey.

Looking back over the past 15 years and too many surgeries to count, I’m still here and I’m still a survivor.  There are many things that cancer can do to you but there are many more things that it can’t do…. cancer has made me a stronger woman and a person that appreciates even the smallest things in life.  My goal as I began my cancer journey was to see me girls grown…today, my Ashlan is 21 and has already received her B.A. in Psychology and is now working on her master’s and is getting married in just three short months. My baby, Genna, is thriving and enjoying life like every teenager.  I truly believe Genna is my angel sent from God.  I believe the pregnancy hormones accelerated the cancer growth and had I not gotten pregnant with Genna it could have been in my body growing and I may not have found it until it was truly too late.

I encourage you to do your monthly breast exams.  If you feel anything, call your doctor right away.  You can never be too cautious with your life.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month….so wear your pink to remind yourself to always take care of you!

Until next time…..

Janet

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Me with Genna (top) and me with my family on my last day of chemo!