Heroes Respond to the Needs of Others
Teri Smieja wears many hats: previvor, mom, wife, advocate. We first met Teri through her blog,Teri’s Blip in the Universe. Her insightful, witty, helpful, and heartfelt prose on previvorship resonated with many in our community. Later, with her dear friend Karen Malkin-Lazavoritz, she founded BRCA Sisterhood, a Facebook community.
It is clear from Teri’s blogs and posts that she is a nurturer and caregiver. It would be easy to conclude that she has spare time and a charmed life, but Teri has faced and overcome her own challenges, and she still places the needs of others over her own.
In Teri’s own words:
“When I first found out about my mutation I was thrown into a world of confusion and fear. I have a lovely family; a husband and two sons. Of course the idea of going through with these surgeries scared me senseless, but my fear of dying of breast and/or ovarian cancer scared me even more. I value my life more than my body parts. My older son, Steven, is a freshman in college. My younger son Brady is two years old. As fearful as I was of having my breasts cut off, and my reproductive organs scooped out, I was so much more fearful of the alternative. I began to see the knowledge of my BRCA1 mutation as a gift rather than a curse. There is no denying the choices previvors like myself have to make are incredibly hard, but at least we do have a choice–something many of our relatives and friends didn’t have.
I found myself with so much empathy for other BRCA-positive women forced to make these choices. Initially I started blogging as a way for me to help myself make sense of all the fear and decisions that were suddenly placed before me. It didn’t take long for me to see that by sharing openly of myself that it was helpful to other women going through the same thing.”
Teri successfully led a Facebook campaign that raised $20,000 for FORCE through the Chase Giving Program; she encouraged thousands of people to vote for FORCE to win the donation. The money was used to help provide information, awareness, and support for people affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and to support our conference scholarship program. Teri’s latest project is co-writing a book featuring stories from the hereditary cancer community for the health care community. The goal of the book is to raise awareness and help health care providers better understand and empathize with their high-risk patients.