National Hereditary Cancer Week is more than just a week on the calendar; it’s a lifeline for those of us who have faced the unique challenges that come with being a previvor. It’s a time to acknowledge and honor everyone living with a genetic mutation that increases their cancer risk, as well as the families and caregivers who provide unwavering support. This includes individuals with Lynch syndrome, or an inherited mutation in genes like BRCA1, BRCA2, ATM, BRIP1, CHEK2, PALB2, PTEN, RAD51C/D, or other genes associated with hereditary cancer.
Today, I want to share my own journey as a previvor and why this week means so much to me.
My Previvor Journey
My journey as a previvor began when I discovered that I carried a genetic mutation that significantly increased my risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Like many, I was shocked and scared when I first received this life-altering information. It felt like a ticking time bomb in my DNA, and I couldn’t ignore it.
But in the midst of my fear, I also felt a sense of empowerment. I realized that knowledge was power. Armed with information about my genetic mutation, I could take proactive steps to reduce my risk of developing cancer. I could become a previvor – someone who takes action to prevent cancer before it even starts. This is not an option that my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother had.
The journey to becoming a previvor is not an easy one. It involves tough decisions and even tougher conversations with doctors and loved ones. For me, it meant undergoing preventive surgeries, like a double mastectomy and the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. These decisions were not made lightly, but they were made with the hope of a healthier future. In all there were a total of 9 surgeries in a little under two years, some during Covid-19.
Why National Hereditary Cancer Week Matters
National Hereditary Cancer Week is a time to shine a spotlight on the experiences of previvors, survivors, caregivers, and families impacted by hereditary cancer. It’s a week dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of genetic testing, early screenings, risk-reducing surgeries, and lifestyle changes. But it’s also a week of support and solidarity.
For me, this week is a reminder that I am not alone on this journey. It’s a reminder that there are countless others who have faced or are facing similar challenges. And it’s a reminder that together, we are a powerful force for change.
The Power of Sharing
One of the most significant ways we can make a difference during National Hereditary Cancer Week is by sharing our stories. Each story is a beacon of hope for someone else who may be on the same path. It’s a source of strength for those who are just beginning their journey as previvors or caregivers.
Sharing my own story has been both liberating and healing. It has allowed me to connect with others who have walked in my shoes and those who are just starting their journey. It has given me the opportunity to provide support, answer questions, and offer guidance to those who are navigating the complex world of hereditary cancer.
Educating and Empowering Others
National Hereditary Cancer Week also presents a unique opportunity to educate and empower others. By sharing information about hereditary cancer, we can help individuals understand their own risk and make informed medical decisions to protect their health.
One of the most critical aspects of this education is the importance of genetic testing. If you have a family history of cancer or suspect that you may carry a genetic mutation, don’t hesitate to speak with a genetic counselor or healthcare professional. Genetic testing can provide invaluable insights into your risk and guide your healthcare decisions.
Additionally, it’s crucial to emphasize that being a previvor doesn’t mean living in constant fear. It means taking control of your health and making choices that reduce your risk. It means advocating for yourself and your well-being.
There is Hope!
National Hereditary Cancer Week is a time of reflection, remembrance, and resilience. It’s a time to honor the previvors, survivors, caregivers, and families who face hereditary cancer head-on. It’s a time to come together as a community and offer support, guidance, and hope to those in need.
As I reflect on my own journey as a previvor, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had to connect with others, share my story, and make a difference. I hope that by sharing my experiences and insights, I can inspire others to take control of their health, seek genetic testing when necessary, and embrace their role as previvors.
National Hereditary Cancer Week is not just a week on the calendar; it’s a movement, a community, and a source of strength. It’s a reminder that together, we can overcome the challenges of hereditary cancer and work towards a future where fewer individuals have to face this disease.