March 2011

Growing Healthy Family Trees

It's important to document our family's living history, but it is even more important to be aware of our family's medical history.

By Cathy Gregis

Editor’s Note:  Throughout this site, we frequently stress the importance of documenting our family’s living history.  Cathy Gregis reminds us in the following article that it is even MORE important to be aware of our family’s MEDICAL history.

Spring… hearing peepers, the songs of birds, the humming of bees as they land on young flowers.  Seeing the birth of lambs, calves, the first robin, everything turning green as it awakens and comes to life.  A time for spring cleaning, yard work, and feeling the warm sunbeams on our faces.  Oh, does that sun feel good.  The sun – it makes us feel good, but exposure can also cause damage.

Sun damage can lead to skin cancer and it is appearing in more than one generation of our family’s medical tree.  We’ve been encouraged to gather our history, including medical history.  The medical connection is important because several studies suggest skin cancer does run in families (learn more about the risk factors by clicking here.)  Australian Dr. Sri N. Shekar of the University of Queensland in Brisbane and Dr. Shehmaz K. Hussain of the University of California Los Angeles, found people with a sibling or parents diagnosed with some type of skin cancer were more likely to develop skin cancer (Source:  Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Sept. 2009). 

Most skin cancers appear after age 50 but sun damage begins at an early age.  Therefore, protection  – and education – should start in childhood.     

Limit sun exposure, especially during peak radiation times, wear broad brimmed hats, and tightly woven clothes.  Use waterproof SPF 30 sunscreen with UVA & UVB protection year-round.  Sunscreen must be applied liberally and repeated every two to three hours after physical activity or swimming.  Avoid tanning beds.  Those who want to get Vitamin D from the sun need only 15 minutes  of exposure a few times a week. 

Look for changes in appearance of the skin such as a new growth or a sore that won’t heal, rough red bumps that are tender, and scaly patches.  (Click here to view a slideshow of precancerous skin lesions and skin cancer.)  If you find anything suspicious, bring it to your doctor’s attention as soon as possible.  Treatments differ and advancements in treating skin cancer keep getting better.

It can take many years before we start to notice the sun damage and realize we should have taken better care of our skin.  If left untreated, the damage could possibly be disfiguring  and even life-threatening.  Unfortunately, it’s often only AFTER  the damage is done that we ask, “How can this happen,” or “Why did I wait so long,” or “What can I do about it,” or “Am I in serious danger?”  Know the facts.  Educate your children.  Be aware that our family history puts us all at a greater risk.  Pay attention to your body.  And seek professional medical advice if you have ANY concerns.  Although all of us probably have some degree of sun-damaged skin, awareness and prompt action may help us identify and treat the damage before it gets worse.

(See Medical History announcement below.)


  • Submitted by Brada Stotts – “My new granddaughter (born in February to son, Brad) is Kista Stotts. There is no “R” in her first name. She is sooo sweet.”

  • Submitted by Jane Hayes – (In response to the photo of the unidentified girls shown in the January edition), “Yes.  I showed this picture to mom and she confirmed that it was her and Aunt Boots playing with their dolls.  She says she can barely remember when it was taken.”

  • Submitted by John DeBrular – “I have ready many of the stories in the newsletter and they are great.  The only thing that is lacking is a collection of photos of the farm and items of interest.  Are there any photos of Sunny Point School?  I always look forward to each newsletter.  They are a bright spot in a dreary day.”  (The following comment added by Bobbi…So how about it folks?  Have you been working on scanning those old pics?  Does anyone have any photos of the school?  If so, please let me know.)

  • Submitted by Bobbi Spiker-Conley – We hope to distribute copies of the Spiker family MEDICAL history at the reunion this May.  The chart will include information for ONLY the first & second generations (Jake, Gay & their deceased children) with blank spaces where recipients may later enter their own personal data.  No later than April 30, please send an email to me with all the details you can recall about each family member’s medical history. 

    Yes, we DO want everyone to reply so that we get the most complete picture & most accurate details.  This is especially true for Jacob and Gay’s histories.  It is likely that you may recall something I have forgotten, or our recollections may differ, so it’s important that everyone get involved.

    Your list should include the family member’s name, a list of known medical conditions (both physical & psychological), the person’s age when the condition was diagnosed, any treatments/therapies, the age at the time of death & the cause of death.

    Still not convinced?  Be sure to read “Robert Spiker’s Story” about how sharing his family’s medical tree with his doctor may have extended his life.

  • Submitted by Bobbi Spiker-Conley – March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  Cancer of the colon or rectum is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.  Unfortunately, it is also historically present in our Spiker Family MEDICAL Tree.  This means that each of my cousins should probably begin cancer screenings years earlier than the suggested age of 50.  For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

    For anyone considering a colonoscopy screening, let me assure you the prep is NOT like it was many years ago.  The most commonly utilized prep today is a Dulcolax/Miralax combination that is odorless & tasteless.  There is no cramping, nausea or vomiting.  And the procedure is quick and painless.  If you need a pep talk (or a “prep” talk), contact me.