Annie Parker lost both her mother and sister to breast cancer. She went on to survive three different cancers herself and became one of a small group of North American women first tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, learning she carried the gene mutation. Annie’s story was made into a movie and a memoir. She now actively promotes awareness for genetic testing. And she certainly lives the NOU life!
Tell us a NOU way you do an old thing post-cancer.
I listen better and care more for others. My cancer journey has given me the opportunity to travel across North America speaking at Decoding Annie Parker screenings and promoting my memoir Annie Parker Decoded. During these wonderful experiences, I have had the greatest pleasure to not just hear but truly listen compassionately to other cancer survivors’ and pre-vivors’ stories.
I think it’s only human nature that people want to be heard and feel that they are being understood. Because I’ve been down the cancer road three times, I believe people hear my compassion which creates an intimate connection, a bond if you will. If I can infuse hope, and possibly help improve the quality of life for one person, it’s a win, win situation.
What’s a NOU thing you’d like to try or have tried since your cancer diagnosis?
There have been many things over my life time where I have been enthralled with an idea only to have the fear of emotional or physical pain paralyze me from moving forward. Risk taking was never my thing, playing it safe was. Nor was public speaking on my radar. But I knew I had a powerful platform, I knew I had a message that needed to be shared with the world. Public speaking was a way to contribute to give back.
What is the best part of the NOU you?
In the past, I often filled my days with negativity and anger. I worried about things that were out of my control. The new Annie Parker now worries less and lives more. While I can’t avoid my reality and can’t change my genetic pedigree, I have found a way to dig deep into my soul to turn my family misfortune into a fortune and live the rest of my life with passion for others. My cancers have not only been a wake up call, but have made me the person I am today, which I hope is a better person then I was before!
Tell us the ways cancer created the NOU you?
Cancer gave me perspective, patience and the strength to move past the disease. Each time I was admitted to the hospital for surgery or treatment, I needed to reach out to patients whose situation was as dire or as grim as mine. I had a need to speak to as many patients as possible because even though I didn’t know what my future held in store, I was trying to change people’s life one chat at a time.
What’s your 2nd Act?
I am a woman on a mission. Prior to the theatrical release of the film in May of last year, Decoding Annie Parker was shown at film festivals and specialized screenings for cancer organizations across North America and abroad. The film is estimated to have raised nearly $1 million for cancer-related charities.
The film also helps push out an important message about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Women who carry the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation have up to an 85 per cent higher chance of developing breast cancer as well as an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. It was these odds that made Angelina Jolie decide to have a preventative double mastectomy when she discovered that she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation.
I was one of the first people to be tested for the BRCA gene mutation. I feel that it’s my role to be an advocate for genetic testing. That is indeed my 2nd Act!