Monday, September 27, 2010
Let's Hear It For The Girls
My decision to undergo prophylactic surgery, simply made sense. Statistics were not in my favor. I had strong support from my family, inner circle of friends, employers and clients. I also knew I had the best medical team for me, on the planet; Dr.'s Roy and Andrew Ashikari and Dr. Andrew Salzberg. My decision to ask for their help in reducing my risk of another breast cancer by over 95% and creating a nice replacement rack, was greeted with total respect and compassion. I knew I was in brilliant hands and I placed my faith in them completely. Their skills exceeded any result I could have imagined and I am indebted and thankful, to all of them.
Six months after my surgery, I stumbled across a website called FORCE, an acronym for Facing Our Risk against Cancer Empowered. Its founder, Sue Friedman, was also a breast cancer survivor and BrCa 2 carrier. Sue founded FORCE, out of her own need to connect with other high risk women and to put together an online support group and resource outpost. It was a great comfort, to feel like part of a larger group of women, who truly understood my issues, fears and desire to find my new normal.
I have made some indelible, friendships over the years through FORCE and when my medical team pioneered a new reconstruction technique, ideally suited for the high risk community, FORCE was the first place I ran to "start spreading the news". Little did I know at the time, that as a result, hundreds of women, mostly, "previvors", (a term coined on the FORCE Message Board in reference to women with known mutations or other high risk familial histories, but not yet cancer survivors), would flock to Dr. Ashikari and Dr. Salzberg, for nipple-sparing, Direct-to Implant Reconstruction. As a result, this April, I will be both Chairing and Honored, at The Ashikari Breast Center Making Dreams A Reality fundraising gala. I am very proud to be able to have helped so many women find "their" dream team and a far less traumatic reconstruction, than I endured.
Fast forward 10 years, to some other significant milestones. Sue Friedman in partnership with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, lobbied to create passage of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week, which was voted in unanimously by our House of Representatives. In addition, the last Wednesday of every September, will be National Previvors Day! The hope, is to educate the nearly 3/4 of million Americans who may not even know, they are at heightened risk of being diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer and what they can do, to best manage their risk.
I am also incredibly proud of my dear friend Mayde Weiner, as well as Suzanne Bisous, Lisa Marton, Amy Frishman and Rory Payne Clarke, 5 Boca Babes, who bravely collaborated with health writer Dina Roth Port, to share their Previvor journeys. All five, travelled from Boca to Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., to have their surgeries with Dr. Ashikari and Dr. Salzberg, after learning about Mayde's fantastic cosmetic results and easier surgical procedure. I was deeply touched, that Mayde chose to include me in her acknowledgement's. Port's book is comprehensive, and covers everything that a woman, (or man) at high risk should know, including insurance issues, Genetic Counseling and testing, surveillance options and the latest in all reconstruction options, for women who choose to reduce their risk surgically. It is poignant, and deeply informative. It is already winning rave reviews and you can pre-order your copy at Amazon. Barnes and Noble, The Previvors or Dina Roth Port's website.
I am so happy and hopeful, that other women will have more resources and support than I did, when I had to make such difficult choices. All women should make sure they know both sides of their families breast and ovarian cancer history. Remember to have an annual digital mammogram and ultrasound if you have dense breasts, keep in touch in the shower and if you feel a lump, thickening or have any discharge, see a breast specialist immediately.
Wishing you all healthy bubs and for those at high risk, informed choices.