Sunday, September 27, 2020

Being BRCA1


 

"I wish I was calling with better news but your test did come back positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation."

That was the call from the genetic counselor that I'd been waiting for. I think I sighed and said "OK". It was March 26th of this year. The world had just shut down due to COVID-19. Now I'm not sure there is an ideal time to find out you have some crazy rare genetic mutation that skyrockets your risk for cancer but during a national pandemic certainly wasn't it. I blame 2020.

What is BRCA1?

Over a text message, my dad told me "You need to get tested for BRCA1". What? Like Angelina Jolie? That was about the extent of my BRCA knowledge at the time.

My dad had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and I knew my cousins, whom I had never met, had something going on to do with cancer but I really had absolutely no idea that there was a possibility it could affect me. I definitely didn't know what BRCA1 was and what it meant if I was positive.

Well, I can tell you that have learned quite a bit about it all since. After coming to terms with the fact that this mutation does NOT make me one of the X-Men (my 9-year-old son was super bummed about that) I started researching the facts. 

Here's what I've learned. Everyone has the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which suppress tumor growth. If you have the gene mutation (about 1 in 500 people do) they don't work correctly and basically open the gates for a cancer tumor growth party in your body. For me, my sister, and cousins, it means that by age 70 we have up to an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and up to a 63% chance of getting ovarian cancer. For the rest of the population, those numbers are 7.1% and .7%. You can learn more at BRCA Mutations: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing.

Getting tested.

My sister and I 100% believe that our cousin saved our lives. 5 years ago, after being diagnosed with breast cancer and looking back into her family history my cousin's doctor recommended she get tested. She did and told her family members. When my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer last December he mentioned my cousin's positive test and was tested also. Then my sister and I, after speaking to a genetic counselor, got tested as well. We are both positive.

Other than my cousin's diagnosis, we actually do NOT have a strong family history of breast cancer. Looking back into our history we know that my grandmother died at 42 from cervical cancer and my great-grandmother died from what they think was stomach cancer but now that we know about the BRCA1 mutation it's not a huge leap to assume that she might have had ovarian cancer that spread. Still, these aren't glaringly obvious signs that we should get tested. The family history that prompted my cousin to get tested was on her mom's side and she was surprised to find out that the gene was passed down from her dad, my dad's brother. 

If it weren't for the doctor who recommended this test to my cousin I might not have known until it was too late.

Should YOU get tested? 

No one can answer that question for you but there are some great resources that can help you make that decision. I can say that it's worth looking into even if you don't have a family history of cancer. Check out Understanding BRCA and HBOC > Should I get tested? from FORCE to learn more.

PSA: Ancestry tests like 23andMe do not count as genetic test for this mutation. You need to talk to a doctor.

The GREAT news

Although it's nothing I ever expected to deal with, especially at 38, I can say that knowing that I carry this gene mutation is truly a gift. It's like looking into the future and seeing the very real possibility of dying young from cancer and being able to stop it from happening. Because I know, I can take steps to drastically reduce my risk. 

For me, this means risk-reducing surgeries. I've had one so far and my others will most likely be in January and March (nothing is ever 100% certain during COVID). But am in control of these decisions. I don't have to just wait around to get cancer. I don't have to live with these statistics looming in the future, I can change them which is a pretty amazing gift.

Am I all sunshine and rainbows about it all of the time? No, of course not. Have I broken down in a complete and utter crying mess? Yep. But I have my friends and amazing family who support me and, through FORCE, a fantastic network of women and men who are all going through it too. I couldn't possibly list everyone who has gotten me through this crazy journey but you know who you are and I can't tell you how thankful I am for you.

Where can you get more information and support?

  • Teleties is a cool company that makes awesome hair ties and accessories. They have partnered with FORCE and make a donation with every purchase. 


Talking to others really helps. Since finding out I have received SO much support from my friends and family. My doctors, at Kaiser, have been amazing. Everyone on my heredity cancer team has been wonderful and I am so thankful to them. I have also connected with lots of people who have helped me so much along the way. Now I hope to pay it forward. If you want to reach out please do. You can email me at kdmoura@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter @KarlyMoura

Thanks for reading! Please share this post and resources with others to help spread awareness about hereditary cancer. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Turn Class into a Social Gaming Experience with 99Math



This post may contain affiliate links. If you sign up, I may, at no cost to you, earn a commission.


During this time of social distancing and remote learning, a social gaming platform that connects students through academic content is a win all around. 99math is a social gaming platform for the whole class to bring students together and accelerate results. 

And best of all? 99math is totally FREE! Want to try it? Sign up here to get started.

99math generates the content, teachers just have to choose the topic they want to practice and no time is spent on preparation. Setting up the game and playing with students takes only 5 minutes from the lesson! Watch the video below to see 99math in action.


Here are 9 reasons to try 99math with your class:


1. It's FREE! 

99 math is free to you and your students. Use this link to sign up and get started playing with your class.

2.  Gameplay elements keep kids engaged.

Leaderboards, badges, and other game design elements are fine-tuned to get kids eager to advance.

3. Playing with friends turns math into a social gaming experience. 

Students can play with classmates, friends or other students across the world.

4.  No need to create the games. Just play!

99math has already generated the content, teachers just have to choose the topic they want to practice and no time is spent on preparation.

5. Designed for elementary and middle school students.

 The platform is designed for K-8th grade teachers based on their curriculum.

6. Great option for remote learning!

The nature of the online gaming platform makes it perfect for remote learning. 

7. EASY to set up.

Set up takes only 5 minutes.

8. Analyze results.

Powerful insights help teachers analyze students’ results and track progress to understand what needs focus.

9. Play at any level.

99math is designed for students at any skill level.

Let's play!

99math, the social gaming platform that makes students excited about math and gets them to progress fast - is launching in the U.S! Watch the launch video below to learn more. Ready to get started? Visit 99math.com sign up and start bringing the fun of a social gaming experience to your math lessons!



Sunday, March 15, 2020

eLearning Choice Boards: A step-by-step guide to creating resources you can use tomorrow!




With the VERY sudden need for eLearning resources teachers and parents can become easily overwhelmed. As a technology teacher on special assignment and a parent of a second-grader (who is now at home for the next month), I can definitely relate.

I know we all want to create meaningful online lessons and activities for our students, however, just like in the classroom we need some ready to use materials to fill in the gaps as we create.

Choice boards are an excellent option for teachers during those first days of eLearning when we are getting our bearings or for parents who want extra options at home. There are lots of ways to use choice boards and tons that have already been created. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see more resources. 

For this post I am going to focus on the simplest way to create a choice board that will give your students opportunities to learn at home without spending a ton of time creating them.

If you are looking for ideas for creating digital lessons for your students check out HyperDocs + Google Forms: A guide to simple digital lesson design or visit my HyperDocs resources page for a template and links to already created lessons.

A step by step guide to creating eLearning choice boards


Step 1: Find apps that integrate with your LMS. 


We use Google Classroom (I know it's not technically an LMS but we use it like one) and there are lots of apps that allow me to import my classes directly. This means that my students can just log in with their Google accounts and I can see their progress. This is very helpful when you are trying to figure out how to check-in and see what your students are doing at home. You probably already have some online learning options available to you through your school too. Check them out and add them is as options.

If you use Google Classroom check out 70+ Awesome Apps that Integrate with Google Classroom from Kasey Bell

Step 2: Import your classes and set up your teacher dashboards 


Most of these apps allow you to decide where you want your students to begin learning or they may even give them a placement test. Once you have imported your students then you're set. Your students log in with their accounts and go.

Step 3: Find some games and non-screen options for your students to do at home 


There are tons of resources floating around like this fantastic menu of options from Pobble. Remember eLearning is just as new to most of our kids as it is to us. Both parents and kids need to be reminded that fun games and non-screen learning time are really important too!

Here is a list of edtech companies that are offering their apps for free for the rest of the school year due to COVID-19 school closures.


Step 4: Create your choice board


Here are is a Google folder of example choice boards that I created for grades K-5. They aren't fancy and they won't be winning any Pinterest Perfect awards (not really a thing but still, you know what I'm talking about). However, they serve their purpose and best of all they can be copied and modified to fit your class.


I also included a simple template with a table of resources curated by subject for you to use to create your own. Please go to "file" then "make a copy" on each document rather than requesting access.

Using choice boards at home.


What would it look like for a student at home using these choice boards? A schedule is helpful to make these choice boards fit into our students' lives at home in a manageable way. 

Many sample schedules have been shared online but this one from Khan Academy caught my eye because of its simplicity and useability. I adapted their schedule and integrated the choice boards as learning options. Please feel free to use and adapt these schedules to fit your class' needs. Be sure to scroll down to find additional schedules and delete those that you don't need. Once again please go to "file" then "make a copy" for an editable version. 


A few thoughts...


I made these choice boards with the intention that they could be used as part of a "day of eLearning". Are the times I have listed perfect for any grade? Nope. Will it need to be modified as we go? Yep. However, I hope it provides you with something to share with your colleagues and students as a starting place. 

As you create your choice boards you can find apps and activities that work for you and your students. Or sign up and import your classes to the apps I have listed on this choice board and use it as is. Either way, make it work for you.

Just remember to give your students and yourself a BIG break when moving to eLearning. This is new to all of us. Some students, families, and teachers have access to loads of tools and resources and some are just trying to figure out how to make it from day to day. Let's all give ourselves permission to figure things out as we go =)

More choice boards and resources.


There are TONS of resources out there for creating choice boards. Here are just a few I have found and I will continue to add more as I find them. 


If you create a choice board or two of your own please share them with the hashtag #tsgivets and tag me on Twitter @KarlyMoura. I would love to see what you create!