Karen Malkin-Lazarovitz is not a cancer survivor. She is a previvor… she carries the BRCA2 mutation.
She made a difficult decision for herself and her family. She had surgery. Karen is a strong advocate for patient education and empowerment.
Learn more about Karen and how she is making a difference in so many women’s lives.
Karen, can you tell us about your family history and how heredity has changed everything with a BRCA diagnosis?
I inherited the BRCA2 mutation from my father. He lost his mother and cousin to ovarian cancer at a young age as well as his aunt to breast cancer. I didn’t want that same fate. I knew that I had to do something with the information I was given.
What was the process like for you personally in making a decision of preventable double mastectomy, hysterectomy and reconstruction?
Although I was very scared of the actual surgeries, the decision for me was a no brainer. I was a young mom with a great family life and I didn’t want to spend my life worrying when cancer would strike. I made the decision to have risk reducing surgeries the minute I knew that I was positive for the BRCA mutation. Thankfully I have a very supportive husband and I was done having children so the decision for me was easy. I felt like a ticking time bomb and couldn’t live with that type of stress.
How has your life changed since reconstruction and your entire journey?
I no longer live life with the fear of cancer lurking in the background. I know that I have done everything in my power so that I don’t live with a cancer worry. This journey has also created a passion to help others dealing with similar issues. No one should feel alone and I do everything I can to help women feel empowered and educated as well as offer support.
Living in Canada (Montreal), how has social media helped you connect with others who carry the gene and how important have those connections been to you?
Social media has the power to bridge the distance. I have reached out to women and men all over the world and have created an online support system. I have been able to share my message of empowerment and I feel that I have helped educate and offer support to those who feel alone. knowledge is power.
What foundations and organizations have made an impact on you and others who are also BRCA positive?
Facing our risk of cancer empowered is a fabulous organization as well as willow.org. I am also very proud of the BRCA sisterhood that I created 6 years ago with a friend. It is now the largest support group online in the world and I am constantly receiving amazing feedback from those ladies that are a part of this community. I have also been able to work with others that are dealing with other hereditary mutations and I have lynchyndrome is another great group.
What has been the emotional impact of this whole journey to date and the impact on your family as well?
I have been on an emotional roller coaster. It is not easy to remove healthy body parts. Surgeries are very difficult and they do take an emotional toll. Thankfully I have an amazing family and they have been nothing but supportive. I also have a fabulous group of friends and they have been there every step of the way. I feel extremely lucky.
How important is patient advocacy to you? What larger role in the future do you see yourself in the patient advocacy community in Montreal, Canada and worldwide?
Patient advocate is NECESSARY. Patients are the ones that are in control of their health. We need to do what is best for us. I am looking find a career in the patient advocacy field because it is lacking here in Montreal. We lack patient education and empowerment and that is not acceptable. I will continue to work with patients, doctors, specialists and counsellors throughout Montreal as well as Worldwide.
Follow me on:
Learn more about Lynch Syndrome