Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in town?
I was born and raised in Wilmette. My husband and I have lived in Highland Park since 2006.
Child(ren) and Age(s)?
We have a 9-year-old boy
Favorite things to do with your son?
I love going to his baseball and basketball games and trying different bakeries (espeically cupcakes) around the North Shore.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
On the lighter side: I love to read and I read a ton. I’m currently reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hanah. I also love putting together those 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. When done, I simply take a pic and then box it back up. And last but not least I am finally getting into learning the rules of professional sports so I can enjoy watching with my husband and son. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
On the heavier side: I am a breast and ovarian cancer previvor*. In 2013 I tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation**. My son was just four-years-old. My paternal grandmother died of breast cancer at the age of 41 and her mother (my paternal great-grandmother) died of breast cancer at the age of 36. I always knew this was a part of my family history but I wasn’t terribly concerned about it. For years my OBGYN, Dr. Carol Ellman, encouraged me to undergo genetic testing based on my family history of breast cancer. I was completely apprehensive to get tested but at that time I had a friend under the age of 35 who had tested positive for BRCA and was simultaneously undergoing breast cancer treatment. This totally scared me into action. I made an appointment with Dr. Peter Hulick of NorthShore Genetics and two agonizing weeks later I learned of my diagnosis with the BRCA1 genetic mutation. What was right for me, for my body and peace of mind, was a series of risk-reducing surgeries***. Not three weeks after my initial diagnosis with BRCA1 I underwent two risk-reducing surgeries within three months of each other.
How did/do you feel after being done with those surgeries?
Today I feel empowered! But it took quite a bit of time to rebuild my strength emotionally and physically. What really helped propel my healing forward was taking on a project to help empower others to take control of their health. I feels so incredibly thankful that I had the knowledge and ability to be proactive in order to avoid a devastating diagnosis.
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through this difficult stage in your life?
There are so many people I’d like to thank! First and foremost, my incredibly supportive husband, Andy. He was and continues to be my partner at every single appointment, every step of the way. I also feel so grateful for my parents, in-laws, my brother’s family and my husband’s brother’s family. My brother is married with two kids and my husband’s brother is married with two kids as well. They live so close, which allows us to spend a lot of time together and raise children together- family is everything! They were instrumental in helping when I was going through my surgeries. All four parents and my incredible network of friends stepped up to drive carpools, bring in meals and host play dates. These surgeries were just three months apart, so I spent quite a bit of time recovering in the year 2013.
Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor, or in the corporate world? Please share!
Yes! I am honored to be a part of the Myra Rubenstein Weis (MRW) Leadership Board! The mission of this incredible non-profit is “to educate and empower people to make informed decisions to prevent hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.” Our third annual “Jammin in Our Genes” benefit is just around the corner on December 1st, 8:00 PM at 210 Restaurant in Highwood, IL. Funds raised at “Jammin’ in Our Genes” will provide financial support for a screening mammography program for uninsured and underserved patients in the Lake County community who receive their care at North Shore Health Center. There will be music by DJ Versage, wine, beer, dessert and raffle games, all while supporting a fantastic cause! Check out more details here!
How has the North Shore community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
The North Shore is home to world class technology and doctors, essentially in our back yard. That combined with the ability to network with other people who have had similar experiences has been key to my survival in so many ways.
* The non-profit Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) states that: “cancer previvors are individuals who are survivors of a predisposition to cancer but who haven’t had the disease. This group includes people who carry a hereditary mutation, a family history of cancer, or some other predisposing factor.”
** The CDC explains what BRCA (BReast CAncer Susceptability Gene) is: “There are two BRCA genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. Normally, they help protect you from getting cancer. But when you have changes or mutations on one or both of your BRCA genes, cells are more likely to divide and change rapidly, which can lead to cancer.”
*** The non-profit Bright Pink explains a risk-reducing surgery, as it pertains to breast and ovarian cancer: “Risk-reducing surgeries remove body tissue most likely to be at risk for cancer and are therefore a viable risk-reduction strategy for some women… most risk-reducing surgeries are thought to be appropriate only for women at high risk…” Go to BrightPink.org for great information about the many ways in which you can live proactively at a young age. This is includes but is not limited to diet and exercise.