Valerie's Previvor Story

What is a “previvor”? A term I had never heard of till 4 months ago. A previvor - “individuals who are survivors of a genetic predisposition to cancer but who have not had the disease”. 

My mother got diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic ovarian cancer about 1.5 years ago. I will never forget that day. Being a doctor I knew very well the hopeless diagnosis (at that time) of stage 4 metastatic ovarian cancer. I can still feel the sadness I had for my mother. My mother has endured surgeries, chemo, remission, relapse and again remission. Her strength likely carried me through the dark days more than I carried her. 

As part of her workup, she had genetic testing that showed she was BRCA2 positive...this explains the predisposition in my mother’s family for ovarian cancer and now breast and pancreatic. This genetic testing would change my life. 

During my moms first remission, I decided to get tested. I was 99.99999% sure I would be negative...I was healthy and strong. How could I have a genetic defect? I got tested and barely thought about it again. Till the evening at home that my Breast doctor, friend and now forever hero text me the results. I was positive for BRCA2! That is the weakest moment of my life. I cried, screamed, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this”. My husband was by my side the whole time. 

As a doctor, I knew what this meant! It took me some time but with 3 young kids and my whole life in front of me, I had no choice. I scheduled my mastectomy and my oophorectomy. 

I have since had both procedures and saying that the process was tough is a huge understatement. I have good days and bad days. Ups and downs. I still have one surgery left in December then the process is done. 

I have been called an inspiration, a strong woman, a tough person but to now be called a previvor and truly understand the significance is what means the most. 

I have found so many hero’s and inspirations along this path - the woman that have come before me and share their stories, the women that go through the same process and have cancer so still have to undergo chemo or radiation, the doctors, the staff that have cared for me, my friends that have listened to me, my kids that make this worth the process 1 million times over, my family....most of all my mom who have saved my life by sacrificing her own body and my loving husband that has stood strong and carried me the days I thought I could not go on.

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