For her entire life, Annie and her family have been challenged by cancer. Before she was diagnosed herself, and long before the BRCA gene even had a name, Annie had already lost her mother, a cousin and her sister to breast cancer.

Before Annie was born in 1951, her mother, Irma, had detected a breast lump during her pregnancy. She waited until after Annie’s delivery before seeking treatment, when she had a radical mastectomy. Following a recurrence years later, Irma received radiation treatment. Annie would later comprehend something she had once seen as a child but had not then understood: watching her mother’s radiation burns being carefully dressed by her grandmother.

Irma died in 1965, when Annie was only 14.

Her older sister, Joan, died of breast cancer at the age of 37. Having lost her mother, a cousin, and now, her sister to the disease, Annie became convinced that she, too, would also develop it. She was repeatedly assured by the medical establishment that her family had simply been ‘unlucky’ and that she had no cause for concern.

In 1980, Annie (29) found a breast lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer; she underwent a modified radical mastectomy followed by a course of chemotherapy.

Eight years later she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer and was treated with surgery and combination chemotherapy. A second-look surgery the following year thankfully showed no evidence of recurrence.

In 2004, at the age of 53, she was diagnosed with a third cancer in her upper abdomen, different in tissue type from either of her previous cancers. This was treated surgically.

Annie was one of the first women in Canada to be tested and found to be positive for the BRCA mutation. As of 2013, she is cancer-free, lives a very full life and is an inspiration to all of us.