When I think about my family’s history with the Mayo Clinic, I immediately think of the kitchen ceiling in my childhood home, where a pale orange circle about the size of a basketball is forever stained into the plaster. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice it’s there, but we do. It has a story, of course. Not an entirely cheery one, but we have a family philosophy that if it makes for a good story… you really can’t complain.
My mother, Sharon, had her first tumor in her jaw just after my birth in 1973, and it cost her four teeth and a large chunk of jawbone. 1977 brought the birth of my younger sister, Britney, and another tumor. This one took a deeper, “U” shaped piece of the bone. A year later, a third tumor took the entire lower left quadrant of her jawbone, which was replaced with a metal rod. Winter always meant thick scarves wrapped around her head because the rod would get cold and radiate a monster ice-cream headache.