Previvors such as Amy Winokur take action to prevent deadly cancers

8:19 AM, Sep 30, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, is marking National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week.  During this week, FORCE celebrates and remembers those who have been affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Pre-Vivor Amy Winokur of North Potomac, Maryland is 33 years old.
Amy's a daughter, sister, wife and devoted mother to her boys, Brody & Chase. 

"I  love picking them up, driving them here and  there, and when I'm not with them, I'm at work with other children,"  said Amy Winoker.

Amy's an elementary school teacher. Her title is Intervention Specialist.  It's an apt description for how she's chosen to take charge of her own health. Amy is a PRE-VIVOR.

"It means that I have reduced my odds significantly of ever having breast cancer," she explained.

Amy has the BRCA 2 gene mutation, which puts her at greater risk for both breast and ovarian cancer. At age 26, she and her brothers were tested because their mother carried the defective gene.

She told us, "I didn't know anybody that wasn't Jewish that had the BRCA gene."

Amy put off taking any drastic preventive measures right away to be at her mother's side as she fought ovarian cancer.

"I didn't care about what gene I had, I just wanted my mom better and healthy..." said Amy.

And after having her own babies, she waited, fearing how surgery would affect them.

She remembered thinking, "Who's going to hold them? Who's gonna carry them? Who's gonna do all that?"

But a heart to heart with her breast surgeon put things into perspective.

"She said 'you're gonna miss picking them up for one month. Do you want that or do you want to miss all their soccer games, all their lacrosse games, because you're going to chemo and too sick to get to the game?'...and it was a no brainer," said Amy.

Last January, for herself and her family, she had a prophylactic double mastectomy.

"It's 2 - part roughness. It's the roughness of you're in pain and it's the emotional part of you just lost your womanhood," shared Amy.

And well-meaning coments prior to surgery didn't help.

"I can't tell you how many people said 'you're so lucky. You're going to have perfect breasts.' Perfect breasts that have no feeling, no nipples, huge scars down the middle of them," said Amy.

And it's still not over. There's nipple tattooing and in a few more years a hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries to lower her risk nearly 90% of developing ovarian cancer. It's a choice her mother, who has survived both cancers, didn't have 11 years ago.

She continued, "Ten years ago, you were totally radical, crazy to do something like this. Now its' saving your life, you're smart for doing it."

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