Happy Previvor Day! Previvor Day is the last Wednesday in September, held during Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer week -- the week between September, which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and October, which we all know is awash with pink for breast cancer awareness.
Previvor Day is a day that women like me, those who straddle these two scary-as-hell realms of cancer and are trying to navigate the shark-filled waters of not-yet-having-cancer on the way to hopefully never having cancer. Many women 'come out' to their friends and family as genetic mutants on a day like today. Others take the opportunity to explain why they chose surgical prevention. Still others celebrate that they can be 'previvors' of one cancer, even if the other caught them.
Technically, I am a previvor already.
"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 term specifically applies to the portion of our community that has its own unique needs and concerns separate from the general population, but different from those already diagnosed with cancer."
But, to me, it feels like jinxing it to refer to myself as a previvor. I am looking forward using the term comfortably and after my surgeries, but I sometimes just can't yet.
Still, I will align myself with those who speak out. I align myself with those who believe education -- of themselves, of other women or of the world at large -- betters all of us, mutant or not. I align myself with the previvors with unending hope that I do beat this.
My first step will be after Baby Girl #3 joins us in December. Six weeks later, I plan to have a salpingectomy or removal of my fallopian tubes. The latest research and hypotheses point to 75% of ovarian cancers potentially starting in the tubes. While the studies are ongoing and, therefore, this is not the gold standard of cancer prevention, I am hopeful that it is the best first step I can take in the post partum period. I'm not ready for menopause. I'm planning to breastfeed this baby for a while. But I need to do something.
This is my something. My next step. What's yours?
Do you feel cancer breathing down your neck because of a mother, sister, aunt or grandmother? How about your ethnicity? (Jewish, African-American or Hispanic?) Do you think it's something for you to consider that you, too, could be a previvor?
If you do, please visit FORCE's "Should I be tested?" page or Bright Pink's "Assess Your Risk" quiz. Use this week of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer awareness to find your own risk and, if low risk, support those around you in their pursuit of knowledge and health.
Happy Previvor Day to my sisters in arms, to those who inspire and support me each and every day. And to those who don't yet know they, too, are Previvors.