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The Bravest Young Woman You'll Meet Today: Lindsay Avner

Recently, CNN Young People Who Rock Blog, which focuses on noteworthy youths, has a feature on Lindsay Avner.

Lindsay, 23, is a healthy young woman who volunteered to undergo double masectomy because virtually every woman in her family (her mother, grandmother, great greandmother, aunts, and cousins ... all suffered from or died of breast cancer).

Avner took control of her own destiny after a blood test revealed she had a genetic predisposition to the disease. She didn't want to live in fear. She wanted to meet her future husband and say, "we got this out of the way so our family won't go through what I did growing up."

A truly brave woman: Link | Lindsay's new nonprofit organization Be Bright Pink


Props to her for starting the organization, but still...wtf? Wouldn't dealing with the psychological issues of fear be a better idea than to undergo possibly unnecessary surgery? She had the predisposition, but it was still in no way certain that she'd get cancer. I would've actually understood this more if she had removed her breasts because she was into amputation or body modification, but not for this reason (and I've had people in the family who've died from various kinds of cancers).
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Given her family history, the possibility that Avner wouldn't be diagnosed with breast cancer were slim to none. So she took her health into her own hands and made that possibility impossible. She's brave for undergoing the surgery, but even more brave for the fact that now she has to deal with reactions like the one above. Breasts don't make a woman.
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If every one of your female family members died of breast cancer, you might have a different perspective.

In high risk patients, it can reduce the risk by 90%
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/preventive-mastectomy

It also leads to reduced anxiety in high-risk women
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/NWS/content/NWS_2_1x_Women_Who_Chose_Preventive_Mastectomy_Report_No_Regrets.asp

It's a reasonable and valid decision on her part.
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Julia, whoever said that breasts do make a woman? I'm actually not as much appalled at the accusation but moreso that it's the first thing you come to as a conclusion. Do not pin that opinion on me. My reaction would've been exactly the same if it were to do with something like a foot, testicle, colon or any other sizeable part of the human anatomy.

Oliver, I'm not really arguing that it doesn't help, obviously it does. I'm moreso questioning whether it's the best decision. It's her body to do with what she wants, but that doesn't mean that everyone must understand or agree with her opinions. Is she brave for having the surgery? That's arguable.

Then there's also the advances made in cancer research (that obviously could be greater if sufficient funds were avaliable) that may very well save her life, or prevent her from getting cancer, if it were to come that far.

Hence, I'm having troubles understanding her choices, though I'm not in any way trying to diminish them. As written, it's her body.
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I've known women who made that choice much later in life. It's not uncommon (in the literal sense of the word) but it is amazing and courageous and very honorable.

I wish her all the best that can possibly happen!
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I understand her fear of future illness because a family history of diagnosis. However, my family history is schizophrenia. That does not mean I would consider blowing my brains out before I hit thirty years old, just so I can't become delusional.

I sincerely hope no other women in America follow her panicky example.
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the snippet says "a blood test revealed she had a genetic predisposition to the disease.[...]She wanted to meet her future husband and say, "we got this out of the way so our family won’t go through what I did growing up."

one wonders if a genetic disposition would be passed on to her children -- seems logical that it would -- and if so, how "out of the way" has the double mastectomy made things for her future kids?
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So..... she underwent a medical procedure in order to save her own life? I wouldn't call that brave. I'd call it human nature, survival is what we were all programed to do.
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Bitter_suburbanite: I think it depends on the value of whichever part you're considering on removing. It's kind of like this person who wrote in that site:

"If everybody in your family would have cataracts and would go blind when old, would you remove your eyes?"

She cannot see through or breasts, nor can she think through them. The one main function for breasts is actually for breastfeeding the baby.
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So she's brave because she got to choose to have surgery for cancer she might be diagnosed with?

Then I'm the bravest mofo around. I had surgery for colon cancer at age 27 because if I didn't I was going to die. I wish I had the choice to have surgery or not.

Now, it's nice she started a nonprofit organization but let's ease off the manufactured bravery.
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For sure it's brave. The young woman confronted a certain future of breast cancer and responded decisively with a preventive yet extreme surgery that will leave her body forever changed in a radical way. It takes guts and courage.

She's the bravest woman I've read about today.

@MrPumperNickel and bitter_suburbanite - it's not a panicky example. She underwent a genetic testing and it came back positive with a gene that will, without a doubt, give her breast cancer in the future. This isn't a matter of there's 40, 50, 60% chance of developing the disease. It's 100%.
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to bitter_suburbanite I hardly think she made this decision easily. Why do people have such strong reactions to what she has done. She has done this to better her quality of life and not just her, cancer effects the whole family. Are you honestly saying that if you could massively reduce your chances of becoming schizophrenia without sacrificing having a normal life you wouldn't do it? In a society where thousands of people are having surgery for vanity reasons why is this any worse?
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She wanted to meet her future husband and say, "we got this out of the way so our family won’t go through what I did growing up."

Puh. Like she can attract a husband NOW.
She's gonna be a big and recurring surprise to dopes on Match.Com.

Like other 23 year-old women with questionable intelligence and bizarre decision-making skills, did she at least get to experience a good nipple piercing before she tossed her titties into the circular file?
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I agree with 'anonymous'. Her quote of:
"we got this out of the way so our family won’t go through what I did growing up."
isn't quite reasonable, because her kids will have the same genetic chances. Lopping of a body part doesn't change your DNA.
On the other hand, it will spare her kids from losing a mother to breast cancer. But if she wants to make sure her kids don't get it, they'll have to lop theirs off as well.
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That's terrible Anthony. I suspect a lot of Neatorama readers are younger, so naturally they'd have a different response than those who've experienced or be familiar with someone who has experienced severe breast cancer.
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Wow, that's a tough choice. I'm thankful I'm not in her shoes or even those of her husband or family members.

That said, I'm not sure there really needs to be yet another non-profit organization "raising awarenss" for a disease everyone knows about. Unless the multitude of breast cancer awareness organizations are doing something glaringly wrong, each additional one just adds more overhead and sucks up $ just to run itself. "Non-profit" doesn't mean by a long shot that everyone involved volunteers their time and resources. Almost always, the staff is raking $ off the top. I don't know the finances of this organization, but why does there need to be another? Next to AIDS, breast cancer has better publicity & media coverage than any disease out there.

Also, a minor gripe, but the CNN piece is rather poorly written... She "volunteered" to get the double mastectomy? That makes it sound like she was subjecting herself to an wildly speculative experimental new treatment. More like she evaluated the risks and decided that a prophylactic (ok, no laughing at that word) double mastectomy was the best course of action. It was a sound rational decision on her part aimed at preserving her life and minimizing future anguish to her family. I'm not faulting her for her choice or disputing it (it's a tough personal call), but "volunteering" pre-emptive removal isn't exactly the best way to describe it.

Finally, if I see another article that describes people "empowering" themselves, I am going to puke. What a trite overused bit of pablum that word has become. Please let's all bury it.
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Bravest? How about most disturbed. If you're interested in a gesture of solidarity, shave your head. Unnecessary voluntary double mastectomy isn't brave, it's certifiable.
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Anthony's black humour is good.
Terrible joke in those corcumstances, but hey, I hope if I die of cancer that some people can get a few laughs. Respectful black humour laughs. A very close family friend is living us this way as we exchange opinions, so I know how good the comical relief can be.
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Brave??

Um, okay. Seems to me that BRAVE would have been to continue living her life normally, knowing that someday she might have to BRAVELY deal with a potentially deadly disease and hoping for a cure in the meantime. Like most other people in her shoes live.

You want bravery? Well, since this is a genetic thing she will most likely pass on to her daughters, she ought to get herself sterilized. Now THAT would be brave -- sacrificing her own expressed desire to have children in order to protect them from her own potentially fatal genetic flaw. THAT you could maybe convince me to applaud. But self-mutilation out of FEAR hardly constitutes 'bravery' to me.

Hey it's her body; she can do what she wants with it -- but at 23 years old, she has no idea what the hell she's doing. In 10 years they might have found a cure or at least drastically reduced the levels of suffering and death, and she'll only be 33. Imagine how she will feel about her drastic decision THEN.

In the meantime, I hate to be the one to break it to her, but when she talks about 'finding a husband', I just cringe. Sorry for the reality check, kids, but she's deformed now -- which dramatically reduces the pool of men from which she has to choose. I know that's going to elicit all kinds of flak from the politically correct dreamers out there, but the fact is that men are attracted to breasts. Some guys prefer them big; some guys don't care all that much about the size -- but we ALL consider them part of the package. I honestly don't know any man who would marry a woman who had no breasts at all. I'm sure there are guys out there who would, but they're in a (desperate?) minority, and she isn't likely to be interested in most of them. Hey; it's hard enough to find love as it is -- just ask a woman who's got her tits intact.

If she'd married a man, had kids and THEN had to go through a mastectomy because of cancer, then any guy worth his sack would stick around and deal with it because he loves her. But that doesn't mean you can blame a guy for not wanting to marry a breastless woman in the first place. So good luck, Lindsay. Find yourself a nice blind guy with no hands.
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I think that we need to first DEFINE "bravery." Is it brave to face death? Or is brave to dodge it? Is it brave to address adversity or is brave to try to avoid it?

If we take the common military analogy, bravery is defined by facing one's mortality without concern for the self. The SELFLESS act of extending one's own peril in order to alleviate the danger to OTHERS.

The Case of the Purple Heart:

If this act is considered brave, then so would the soldiers who shot themselves in the foot to get out of military service. Those who did so, anticipated being killed in battle, like all their commrades. Thus, they inflicted a self-induced wound to bypass the high likelihood of injury or death from the hands of FATE.

It appears to me that self-inflicted wounds, while perhaps WISE or SHREWD cannot rise to the level of bravery since the only life she is saving is her own.

Brave would be DONATING organs to someone who was in need of them, at the risk of your safety.

Brave would be sacrificing something dear to you for the purposes of helping someone OTHER THAN ONE'S SELF live on.

This act is not news worthy except for its drastic, grotesque tabloid nature.

Jesus was brave.

Judas was not.

Martin Luther King was brave.

James Earl Ray was not.

John Lennon was brave.

Mahatma Gandhi was brave.

Joan of Arc was brave.

Ann Frank was brave.

Cutting one's self when one is NOT suffering a disease, not in peril, not at risk of death NOR is there anything or anyone ELSE in her life for which this act benefits beside herself. It is not brave in the classic sense. we as community should NOT name churches, build monuments or inscribe her name in the annals of history b/c of this act of self PRESERVATION.

Please, wake up and read your history. The world is SO full of heros such that this story shouldn't be raised up as some paen to womanhood and self sacrifice.

Please,
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Breastfeeder, you are a truly dispicable human being. Maybe the reason you have a hard time with the opposite sex is because you only date superficial jerks. That, or your inner ugliness has left its mark on your outer appearance.

Not all men are preoccuppied with breasts and those that are probably aren't worth being with anyway. Has she limited her options? Of course. But that just means she doesn't have to wade through a lot of a'holes to find someone who will like her for her.

In fact, sometimes women who don't live up to societies expectations have an easier time finding love because men aren't after them for the wrong reasons.

As for the sterilization comment, that's beyond idiotic. By your logic, nobody should have children because life is a fatal condition. The only way for anyone to avoid death is never to live at all.

I certainly don't regret being born just because I may or may not have a ticking timebomb in my body. My mom had a voluntary mastectomy because she had a 90% chance of cancer and as her daughter, I'm glad she did it because I'm selfish and I want her to stay alive and healthy and be in my life and the life of my future children.

My aunts who already have cancer don't begrudge her decision, either, and they don't think of her as less of a person for taking measures to avoid cancer. But that's because we care more about each other being alive, healthy and well and less about appeasing others who feel that its more important to be brave and face death instead of taking preventative measures to remain with loved ones.

There's more to life than breasts and anyone whose quality of life is going to be that horribly diminished without them needs to get their priorities in order. Only a seriously disturbed individual would believe that my mother for example should keep her breasts at the 90%+ risk of dieing young leaving her family behind.

Maybe you'd choose a short life of superifical beauty over a long and fullfilling life, but I'm glad my mother didn't.
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