One Woman’s Compelling Story Of Survival

By Elizabeth Rose

breast-cancer-awarenessStage IV metastatic breast cancer survivor and advocate, Stephanie Robin, is on a mission to save lives.  Stricken with Stage II breast cancer in 2004 at age 36, Stephanie was shocked to learn that she was a carrier of the breast cancer (BRCA) gene and continually meets others who are unaware that such a gene exists, just as she was.

Stephanie, a mother of two young children, found the courage to ask questions, find answers and fight her own battle against breast cancer.  Now, it is her mission to empower others to do the same.  She serves as an inspirational spokesperson for THINK PINK, a breast cancer organization that she and her friend, Elizabeth Weprin, founded a year after her diagnosis to raise awareness about the BRCA gene mutation.  Robin underscores the importance of awareness and implores others to examine their family history and determine if genetic testing for the BRCA gene is appropriate for them.

Women with a BRCA mutation have a significantly higher lifetime risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers than the general population.  Stephanie wants you to know:

A woman’s risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Men with these mutations also have an increased risk of breast cancer.  According to estimates of lifetime risk, about 12% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives compared with about 60% of women who have inherited a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2.  In other words, a woman who has inherited a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 is about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman who does not have such a mutation.  Lifetime risk estimates for ovarian cancer among women in the general population indicate that 1.4% will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer compared with 15%-40% of women who have a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.

In addition, while BRCA gene mutations have been found in women (and men) from all backgrounds, its prevalence is higher among Jewish people of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazim).  In Ashkenazi Jews, three BRCA mutations in particular are more common, with one in 40 people carrying one of these BRCA mutations.  About 25% of Jewish women who have developed breast cancer by age 41 have one of these BRCA mutations.*

Those who discover that they carry the gene can be informed of their choices leading to a dramatically reduced risk of breast cancer through prophylactic surgery or a screening regimen that would lead to much earlier detection.

“Cancer is a powerful enemy but, one that proactive measures can help combat,” said Stephanie.  “People everywhere need to know about the BRCA gene.  Had I known, the past five years of my life may not have consisted of many grueling chemotherapy treatments and painful surgeries, let alone the daily fear of my children losing their mommy long before I had a chance to raise them.”

Stephanie quickly gained the unrelenting support and admiration from friends and countless supporters.  She and Elizabeth developed an annual charity concert, THINK PINK ROCKS, to share knowledge and to benefit a number of breast cancer charities and research organizations.  The second annual event, to be held Oct. 3 in Boca Raton, FL, will feature AKON, Melanie Fiona, Shontelle, American Yard and DJ Cassidy.  The concert will be hosted by Terrence and Rocsi of BET’s “106 & Park.”  Past THINK PINK ROCKS supporters have included Queen Latifah and Gabrielle Union to name a few.  As a sweet addition to the night’s festivities, a Guinness World Records representative will be in attendance to award the record for the world’s largest cupcake.  Weighing in at approximately 1,550 pounds, the chocolate cake with pink frosting will measure 6-feet wide and 4.5-feet tall and will be served up for donations to THINK PINK ROCKS.

Harnessing the power of social media, Stephanie launched a national awareness campaign in August with the goal to reach one million people with the facts about the BRCA gene by providing life-saving information and collecting one million unique clicks at www.ThinkPinkRocks.com.

About THINK PINK

THINK PINK was founded in 2005 to save lives by providing women and men with the knowledge that the BRCA gene mutation exists so they can examine their family history and determine if genetic testing is appropriate for them.  Their mission is to raise awareness about early detection of and genetic testing for breast cancer and to provide funding for screening, treatment and research.  For more information, visit www.thinkpinkrocks.com.

*Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov


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