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A Match for Ellen

Longtime Bright Pink supporter, Brianna Meade, shares her personal connection to Bright Pink’s mission as well as her special relationship with her mother, Ellen.

Throughout the month of May, Brianna and her family are matching all donations (up to $10,000) through the Ellen Marks Cancer Foundation, a foundation created to honor her mother’s legacy. Read on to learn more about Brianna and how she’s honoring her mother’s legacy by being proactive about her health.

Hometown

Chicago

How did you first hear about Bright Pink?

I met the founder Lindsay [Avner] through a mutual friend and was so inspired to hear about Bright Pink’s work.

Why did you and your family choose to support Bright Pink?

My mother carried the BRCA2 gene (unknowingly) and she passed away eight years ago due to complications with her long fight with metastatic breast cancer.

I underwent genetic testing, not knowing that my mother was a carrier. I had people, even doctors, telling me I did not fit the typical profile for a carrier, which is ridiculous because I do indeed have the BRCA2 gene. Due to a positive test, I immediately went to my OBGYN only to find out I had breast cancer. I was only 33. I had a radical double mastectomy eight days after my diagnosis followed by months of treatment. So to say the cause [Bright Pink] is near and dear to our heart is almost an understatement.

What do you want our community to know about your mother?

It’s hard to explain how much you love your mother in words, right?

I was beyond lucky to have her. Even though it wasn’t long enough, she taught me how to be the strong woman I am today. She was wise, loving, deeply caring, an adventure seeker, classy, intelligent and someone people came to for advice.

She was private about her health struggle, (it was incredibly hard on her) and there was nothing more she wanted then to be here right now [today]. She was the fiercest fighter I have ever met, all while doing it with dignity and grace.

What are your favorite memories of your mom?

There are so many; she was my best friend. The person I called every morning, noon and night. But I’ll go with the last great memory we had together. We went to Paris for my 30th birthday. It was a magical time for me, I was always in awe of my mother and there was just something so alluring about her. On this trip, I felt like she was finally letting me in on all of her little ways and secrets, and I just gobbled it all up. We laughed and talked for hours on that trip and it’s burned into my memory.

How can people learn more about the Ellen Marks foundation?

It’s a foundation my family started in honor of our mom. We work primarily with cancer charities and [we] have a close relationship with Northshore Hospitals.

Advice for fellow moms?

Oh gosh, I don’t know we are all just trying our best!  I guess I would say just try and be present, honest and open with them [children]. My two little ones are my whole world and I made a promise to myself to shower them with love, honesty, and openness while also giving them discipline when needed and structure.

Also please make time for yourself when it comes to your health! My son was six months old when I undergone genetic testing, and seven months old when I was diagnosed. I am beyond thankful I made my health a priority even during the throes of new motherhood.

What do you want other women to know about taking control of their health?

I’d love to see the fear come out of it. I hear sometimes, “oh I’d just rather not know,” or “it’s too scary to find out my genetic history.” I always say it’s actually scarier not to know!

Knowledge is power, take that in. You can be proactive about something that could change the trajectory of your life. You become empowered with knowledge and options instead of fear and worry.   

Any Words of Wisdom on how to make prevention a priority?

To put it simply, I may not be here right now if I didn’t make my health and prevention a priority. I found my cancer at a treatable stage but do I wish I had known about this [BRCA] gene earlier in life so I could have taken the route of prevention instead of treatment. I can’t change that. I did change [my narraritive] when it came to getting my preventative oophorectomy last year. I was ready and felt very empowered by my choice of prevention.

It’s 2019 and it’s time to evolve and to start a new way of thinking about our health.

 

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