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Over the weekend I attended a birthday/family reunion for my older brother Ray at his farm in Pennsylvania.  I have to admit, I went with a little bit of trepidation.  After all, I was going to see family members I hadn’t seen in years and some I’d never met.

Seems pretty exciting, so why the trepidation? Because like most families, mixing some of my family members together is like mixing explosive compounds. Now we were going to add an unknown compound into the mix. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had an exit strategy, should fireworks begin, mapped out before I hit the road to Pennsylvania.

As it turns out I didn’t need one. It was a terrific weekend on the farm. Like one big group hug. We shared funny stories, personal life stories, and generally got along great.

We also shared some medical histories which was terrific. Terrific not in the sense that I like hearing about others’ health problems, but terrific because it added important family medical information I didn’t have. Such as, I learned that my maternal grandfather died from prostate cancer. Since they lived in Florida when I was a kid, I always assumed he died of old age. You have to be a really old to be a grandfather right?

I found out my brother, the birthday boy, like me, had had skin cancer, and family members learned of my sister’s battle with breast cancer. Besides cancer, thrown into the mix were heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and we’re pretty sure some mental illness.

Doesn’t sound like the making of a fun weekend? Maybe not, but the family tree health history is information that will help all of us make wiser, more informed decisions about our own medical care. Especially when it comes to screening guidelines, good nutrition, and who we should stay away from if they’re in a bad mood.

Have any of you had the same experience with a family gathering that also turned out to be medical family history eye-opener? Post your thoughts, I want to hear from you!