Many women grow up knowing there’s a good chance they’ll have to wrestle with their genetics one day. Certain diseases and ailments run in their family, whether it’s alcoholism, Alzheimer’s, or, in the case of this week’s guest on Uninterrupted—breast cancer.
Most of the women in Lindsay Avner’s family had breast or ovarian cancer. Both her grandmother and great-grandmother died when Lindsay’s mom was only 18. And then, when Lindsay herself was only 12, her mother got breast cancer, too.
"My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer and then 10 months later, with ovarian cancer,” says Lindsay. “I think about what went through my mind at the time, and I was like, ‘She's going to die and then who's going to get me pads and tampons?’”
Luckily, Lindsay’s mom survived, and 25 years later, she’s here to support Lindsay, who has had to make some tough medical decisions herself.
Knowing that because of her genetics, her chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer were very high—in fact, tests confirmed there was an 87 percent chance of Lindsay developing cancer in her lifetime—she decided to seek out a double mastectomy at the young age of 23. “I remember there was a physician who said, ‘You know, I'm really concerned about you doing this before you get married.’” says Lindsay. “He said, ‘You really, really should wait until you get married before you move your breasts.’"
Offended but undeterred, Lindsay wound up traveling from her hometown of Chicago to New York City, where a team of understanding doctors removed both of her breasts. “I didn’t want to just wait until I got cancer, and then have chemo, and all those other crazy things that come with a cancer diagnosis. I wanted to be proactive, and I wanted to play offense.”
Now in her mid-thirties, Lindsay has been leading her organization, Bright Pink, for close to a decade. Bright Pink aims to empower the 52 million women in the United States between the ages of 18 and 45 to learn about their bodies and make decisions based on knowledge and purpose, and not fear or necessity.
“All of this research points to the fact that when a woman is in her 20s and in her 30s, that's the time when she's setting the tone for how she's going to manage her lifestyle moving forward,” says Lindsay. “That's the perfect moment to insert the conversation about prevention, early detection, being proactive, and advocating for your health.”
To learn more about Bright Pink and how Lindsay stood up to sexist doctors, listen to this entire episode of Uninterrupted on iTunes or Soundcloud now.
The Women Promoted on This Episode:
I am big student of BrenÃƒÂ© Brown’s books,” says Lindsay. “ I think about the message she talks about in her latest book about how it's not about the falling down. We know everyone's going to fall down. It's about how do you pick yourself up.”
Follow These People on Twitter:
Women’s Health: @womenshealthmag
Caitlin Abber: @everydaycaitlin
Lindsay Avner: @LindsayAvner
Bright Pink: @BeBrightPink
Uninterrupted is produced by Caitlin Abber, and recorded at CBS Studios. Editorial support is provided by Lisa Chudnofsky.
Our theme music is “Bullshit” by Jen Miller.