Recently, we had the privilege of sitting down for a conversation with Bright Pink founder and CEO, Lindsay Avner. The lady packs an awesome and inspiring amount of knowledge, which she shares with great clarity and enthusiasm. In other words, we were impressed. Below is her story, the story of Bright Pink, and most importantly, the story of You. This is part one of a series of three.
Part One: The Story of a Girl… and an Idea
Lindsay Avner needed someone to talk to about breast and ovarian cancer. Finding someone to talk to took some extraordinary measures – but she found she wasn’t alone. So she herself did something a little extraordinary: In January of 2007, Avner created Bright Pink. She believed in the need – and the incredible potential– of empowering women with education for better health. Bright Pink exists to focus on “the risk reduction and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women while providing support for high-risk individuals.”
Avner’s story starts with her great-grandmother. And her grandmother. And her mother. Each had breast cancer. Her grandmother and great-grandmother died within a week of each other. When Avner was a child, her own mother was diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancer within a year. Thanks to modern medicine and being one tough cookie, today her mom is an 18-year survivor. But all this left Avner wondering, “What about me?” Would this be passed down to her like a tragic family tradition?
So at the age of 22 she got tested – and came back positive – for being a carrier of a mutation of the BRCA gene, the “breast cancer” gene. This meant her risk of getting breast and/or ovarian cancer was high. The other gene she inherited cannot be tested for: the Fight For Your Life gene.
“When I was 23 I had a double mastectomy, I was the youngest person in the country at the time to ever have such a surgery. Once I had it, I never looked back.” At first she was wary to talk about it for lots of reasons, like fear and uncertainty about how people might treat her and react to her choice.
Then she made another radical choice: she spoke up and spoke out. Her story made the front page of the Chicago Tribune, and from there the media spread the word about the BRCA gene and cancer risk.
Women from all over reached out to Avner wanting to know their risks, their options, and how to handle whatever came their way. This need to talk and to learn had been her lonely path for too long, so she decided to help other women. “I realized, there’s work to be done.” So she created Bright Pink.
(More about Bright Pink in tomorrow’s second installment of this series…)