Decoding Annie Parker

Tonight, in celebration of my first HBOC week and Previvor Day, I went to my first FORCE event. I had the opportunity to see the movie Decoding Annie Parker and share that with my younger sister.

The movie looks at parallel journeys - that of Annie Parker, a woman dealing with a heavy family history of breast cancer in the 70s and 80s, and Mary-Claire King, the geneticist who spearheaded the discovery of the BRCA mutations (played by Helen Hunt who is loving this intense doctor role this tear, huh?). As Annie searched for an answer, a reason for the pain her family suffered and that she herself endured three (yes, 3!!!) times, Dr. King had her clock marked at the 12 minute mark, the minute a woman died from breast cancer.

Though they did not work together until much later, they both knew it was there. They both believed it was worth seeking out, that it was even necessary to seek out.

The movie hit all the right chords of humor, empathy, gritty reality and a taste of progress, of moving forward.

But it was tough. It was tough to watch the chemo scenes and remember how my own family suffered the same way. It was hard to watch a marriage fall apart because of all of the factors that go into a diagnosis and its treatment. It was even tough to hear the real Annie Parker (still kicking and looking amazing!) discuss that her own son has not pursued testing for the gene he knows his mother carries.

And I stood and acknowledged my Previvor status for the first time in a group. Among other women standing as well. It was a lot. But it was what I needed this week.

I will get back on my horse about blogging and answer some questions that I've answered for people lately. But on this week that bridges the awareness months for ovarian and breast cancers, everyone should know their risks, whether they are hereditary or not. The best any of us can do is educate ourselves, much like Annie did decades ago.

Mary Daly, MD, PhD, FACP; Susan Domchek, MD (one of the reasons I chose UPenn); Annie Parker; and director, Steven Bernstein (who also worked on White Chicks and Waterboy)

You can like the movie on Facebook and IMDB and request a theater near you carries the film when it makes it's theatrical debut next year.