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Preventing Cancer – What I Did to Stay Alive

I woke up this morning without breasts. Not a surprise. This is how it’s been since I underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy six years ago on August 7, 2012 – to prevent getting breast cancer. I still think, as I imagine Angelina Jolie believes of her life-affirming surgery, it’s the best decision I ever could have made.

For more than a decade, my gynecologist warned me I was high-risk for developing cancer. My mother had died of ovarian cancer and I tested positive for BRCA1, the genetic mutation that bumps lifetime risk of breast cancer from 12% (the general population) up to 85%. Couple all of this with the knowledge my grandmother died of breast cancer, and surgery actually felt like an opportunity, not a sentence. Doctors promised the 11.5-hour procedure (the plastic surgeon created breast “mounds” out of my own belly fat so I could avoid getting implants) would free me from many more years of medical surveillance – a battery of non-stop breast exams, mammograms, and MRIs. And it did. Even better, when the anesthesia wore off, the relentless fear of being diagnosed with breast cancer was gone. I was free. …Continue Reading

CNN.com OPINION: What I share with Angelina Jolie

In 2007 I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to prevent my getting ovarian cancer.

It was a surgery of the kind that Angelina Jolie recently underwent, as she revealed Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed. Two years ago, Jolie divulged that she’d had a prophylactic double mastectomy — I had done this as well, in 2012.

Along with the effects of the surgeries themselves, we now also share a related fallout: surgical menopause. Continue Reading

New York Times: Can the Human Blueprint Have Owners? BRCA Test, Vital for Me, Shouldn’t Be Limited

Myriad began offering BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing in 1996, the same year my mother died of ovarian cancer. Since then, Myriad reports to have screened more than one million patients. That includes Angelina Jolie, and me.

Jolie and I have a lot in common: Her mother died of ovarian cancer when she was 56; my mother died of ovarian cancer when she was 57. Angelina tested positive for BRCA1; so did I….Continue Reading