National Cancer Survivors Day is a day of gratitude for me because I am a cancer survivor. I’m also a BRCA 1 mutation carrier, meaning my parents gave me life and they also gave me a gene that puts me at very high risk for aggressive types of breast and ovarian cancer along with some other really horrible cancers. Being a cancer survivor is something I think about every day because I've survived one cancer, hopefully previved another and I have a hereditary cancer syndrome. Up until I was 55, I would never have anticipated this for myself. I don't think any of us really do. Cancer and the BRCA mutation were double shocks! Since then, the cancer community is now very much 'my people'. National Cancer Survivor's Day is now one of 'my days'.
Breast Cancer Survivor Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
Getting a cancer diagnosis is devastating. Learning your body has been a cancer ticking time bomb all of your life is also surreal. The cancer chapter started for me when I found a small breast lump on self exam. This was followed by a whirlwind of tests, emotional fallout upon receiving the diagnosis and then a year of heavy cancer treatment with chemo and lots of surgeries.
It's been almost 7 years and I've survived really aggressive bilateral high grade triple negative breast cancer. Of all breast cancer types, this is the worst. When I attended breast cancer support group meetings and introduced myself and this diagnosis (a cancer survivor recommended that I don't say 'my' in the context of cancer) I could see the looks on the other faces in the group. They were sad for me and relieved that they did not have that diagnosis. And, I've survived!
The cancer syndrome was yet another challenge to grapple with for me (yes, I have children). When I saw the BRCA cancer experts at Stanford for treatment advice back in 2013, I was feeling really sorry for myself because I was one of the unlucky people who carry a BRCA mutation. Even as a physician, I only knew a handful of people who knew they carried a BRCA mutation. It turns out that this gene mutation is not that uncommon. In fact, about 750,000 people in the US carry a BRCA gene mutation - and they don't know it!
Dr. Kurian, the Stanford Oncology BRCA expert that I saw, was AMAZING. She told me,
“On average, we think that people carry at least five or six genes that predispose them to some horrible disease. At least you know one of yours.”
Wow, that was a reframe! Yes, I had breast cancer. But I also knew I needed to previve ovarian cancer by having my Fallopian tubes and ovaries out.
Previving means doing something preventative BEFORE cancer (or any other serious disease) strikes.
I chose to previve ovarian cancer by having my ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed before they developed cancer. My maternal grandmother did not have this opportunity; she was a nurse in World War I and died of ovarian cancer at the age 55. I never met her. She and I are the only medical professionals in our family and I think we probably would have had a lot in common. Had ovarian cancer not taken her back then, she would have been alive to love and mentor me because I was born a few years later.
Cancer syndromes are actually becoming more common as we learn more about cancer. People with a cancer syndrome have a choice to previve their cancers by being screened for the relevant cancers or having preventative surgery or treatment before cancer happens. There are other genes that increase a person’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer. There are genes that put people at risk for other cancers, too. Some of the genes we know about, such as mine. Others are yet to be identified and discovered. You and your family may carry a genetic predisposition to cancer like I do. It’s why cancer advocacy is so important.
Important cancer advocacy days for me in 2020
Sunday June 7, 2020 is National Cancer Survivor's Day
October is always Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the last week of September is always Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and Previvor's Day. During this time, my team and I do a variety of fund raising events for cancer advocacy. I also write and share articles on breast cancer, the BRCA mutation and cancer chemotherapy topics.
My hope is that the information shared, and fund raising we do, will save lives and help those who are currently being treated for cancer.
Cancer is common. National Cancer Survivor Day is a reminder to check in with how cancer has, or may, touch your life.
Why are there days, weeks and months devoted to cancer advocacy?
The goal is to spread the word about cancer, get you thinking about your own risk and to help support the organizations that fund cancer research and advocacy. For example:
- Do you have cancer running through your family? If so, maybe you want to talk about that with your doctor.
- Have you taken care of your cancer screening tests this year? Do you do monthly self-breast exams? Men, you need to do them too. Men also need to check for lumps on their testis. We all need to examine our skin every month for skin cancer.
- Have you stopped to give thanks for those in your life that are survivors of cancer? We all know at least one person touched by the disease. It's no fun to fight cancer. I know that living with the side effects of cancer treatment has been life changing - but I'm here to adapt so I'm grateful.
- Is there a type of cancer that has really touched the circle of family and friends that you hold dear? Do you want to support the advocacy organization for that type of cancer? I support FORCE with every Chemotherapy Skin Care Kit I sell. FORCE is the organization that funds advocacy and research for the Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer community. Who knew they would end up being my people!
I'm almost 7 years cancer free from a fast-growing cancer. It means that my cancer treatment team have counted me "Cured"! I'm a survivor and I'm grateful. And, I give back.
Dermatologist's Chemotherapy Skin Care Kit gives 100% of profits to support Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Advocacy
Since 2013, I give all of profits from my Chemotherapy Skin Care Kit to FORCE, the advocacy organization for the HBOC (hereditary breast and ovarian cancer) community. This is the skin care routine that saved my skin during 4 months of really harsh chemo. I had dose dense ACT chemo. It is no picnic! I knew that keeping my skin free from wounds, rashes and sores was key to avoiding antibiotics. This kit worked miracles for me. I made it to help other cancer warriors as they undergo treatment.
My Chemo Kit makes a great gift if someone you know is being treated for cancer. Click here to purchase my Chemotherapy Skin Care Kit and I will send all the profits to cancer advocacy work at FORCE.
Since learning that I have a cancer syndrome, I've found out that we are an important group for cancer research because of our increased risk for this horrible disease. This means that by supporting FORCE, you are support the fight for many types of cancer. Join me and support someone in your life who is undergoing chemo and support cancer advocacy at the same time.
I'm a survivor, I'm grateful, and I know that cancer treatments get better with every day. It is National Cancer Survivor's Day and we are all in this together.