When Angelina Joilie’s story broke last week, I knew I had to get going on this post. Her story was the perfect lead in. Some call Angelina a hero; I’m not sure I’d say that, but I certainly do applaud her decision to go public about her prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.
Enough about her, though. I’d like to tell you about a group of women of the non-celebrity type who definitely are heroes to me.
They are the ladies behind the new book, The Pink Moon Lovelies: Empowering Stories of Survival.
As I wrote about in my Voices of Hope DVD project post, I’ve encountered some incredible women since my cancer diagnosis who are accomplishing amazing things. Another one of these women is my friend Nicki Boscia Durlester, author of Beyond the Pink Moon. In her book, Nicki shares about the staggering number of cancer diagnoses in her family and about the impact that reality has had on her life. Nicki is a breast cancer survivor. She is also BRCA2 positive.
After publishing her book, Nicki started a Facebook group to provide a safe place for others with hereditary risk to discuss all things regarding hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. That’s a lot of stuff to discuss!
The group soon grew in numbers (I’m one of them!) and evolved into something more than even Nicki had ever expected. Fears, hopes, questions, answers, anxieties, dreams, struggles, losses and triumphs were shared by the group’s members. But more importantly, women grew to care about one another and friendships formed.
Eventually, Nicki got the idea to gather together some of the stories the Lovelies (that’s what they call themselves) shared within this group. She compiled the stories together in a book, The Pink Moon Lovelies: Empowering Stories of Survival. (Like usual, I was late to the party and missed out).
This book is a collection of fifty of those stories and every story is as unique as the woman who shares it.
In part one survivor stories are shared by women who’ve survived breast cancer or ovarian cancer. In part two stories are shared by previvors – women like Angelina Jolie, women who’ve made difficult decisions to undergo prophylactic preventive procedures before cancer strikes, or the equally huge decision to opt for diligent surveillance.
All of the stories are powerful and inspirational. They are also very much grounded in reality – the reality of living with hereditary cancer risk and the fact that there are not always happy endings.
A cancer diagnosis can feel isolating. Learning you are BRCA positive, or living with the threat of hereditary risk even if you test negative, can be isolating as well.
I often recall the words my oncologist said to me the day I found out I am BRCA2 positive, “You know, you really are quite rare.”
Under different circumstances, such words might have been a compliment.
This is exactly why reading these compelling stories about survivors and previvors all compiled together in one book was tremendously moving for me. Though not all the women who shared their stories in the book ended up testing positive for a BRCA mutation, all the women are like me; they understand what it’s like to live knowing cancer risk lurks in your family’s DNA.
But even if this is not the case for your family, these women are like you too.
They are mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, wives and friends. They are from different corners of the world. They are women of varying ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes, occupations and interests. Some have had cancer themselves and some have not.
One of the most stunning realizations for me when reading this book was reading over and over again words written by some of the previvors telling about their earliest memories, which so many times means remembering cancer.
Helen Smith, a BRCA1 previvor from Ohio writes:
“For as long as I can remember, cancer has been a part of my life… I can remember sitting on a tricycle outside watching the medics take my grandmother away on a gurney. My next memory of her was in the hospital. They allowed me to see her… It was the last time I would see her alive.”
And Edel Taylor, a BRCA1 previvor from Australia, writes:
“My first memory was my second birthday and being minded by my Nan and Pop as my Mum was in hospital recovering from surgery for breast cancer.”
Rachel Harrison, a BRCA1 previvor from Minnesota, writes these moving words:
“Memories of being a little girl usually include dressing up in your mommy’s clothes, bracelets, necklaces, and high heels. For me there was one more memory, dressing up in mommy’s fake breast… She was twenty-nine years old.”
Yes, some of the stories include incredibly heartbreaking accounts of cancer-stained family histories, but this is the stark reality for many who live with hereditary cancer.
These women do not share to garner sympathy; no, not these women. They share with one goal in mind – to save lives.
I am inspired by the women whose stories are highlighted in the Pink Moon Lovelies: Empowering Stories of Survival. They might not be rich and they certainly aren’t famous, not yet anyway, but they are courageous, caring and compassionate ‘Lovelies’ for sure.
I think they just might be heroes too.
Thank you to all the ‘Lovelies’ who shared their stories in this book and thank you to those who share more quietly behind the scenes every day as well.
Important note! 100% of the proceeds earned from sales of this book will go to breast and ovarian cancer RESEARCH!
To enter this giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Pink Moon Lovelies: Empowering Stories of Survival, simply leave a comment below by 5 pm CT Sunday, May 26, 2013. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter.
Sign up to win a copy for yourself, a loved one, a friend, a medical professional or anyone who cares about women’s health. This book will also make a great addition to any cancer center’s library.
So what are you waiting for?
Leave a comment and you’re in!
Image used with permission. Click on image for more information about how to buy.
Also, be sure to visit the Pink Moon Lovelies: Empowering Stories of Survival’s Facebook page and while you’re there, be sure to like it!