The Downey Sisters' Fund for BRCA Mutation Awareness and Education was established by Phebe and Frederick Downey, to honor their daughters:
Ann Downey Little • Margaret Downey Hardy • Katherine Downey Berges • Martha Downey Lemp
The fund is being used to educate the public and the medical community about the genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
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“…Learning to Dance in the Rain”
The Downey Sisters’ Story
In the spring of 2009, the Downeys learned about their family BRCA mutation from a paternal second cousin, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently underwent genetic testing. With this new information about the paternal connection, Fred Downey first, and then his daughters Ann Little, Meg Hardy, Kate Berges and Marti Lemp, were each tested. Shockingly, all five learned they were positive for the BRCA mutation, and within three months Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer and Marti with fallopian tube/ovarian cancer.
Over the next year, Ann and Martha underwent chemotherapy, and then with Meg and Kate, all four made the agonizing choice to undergo the multiple recommended prophylactic surgeries. Having consulted broadly, questioning, listening, and learning as much as they possibly could, they each reached the conclusion that the only option was to have the recommended surgeries. There was some comfort in knowing that the sisters were going through this together; there was also much painful deliberation and loving support from family and friends. But ultimately these were very difficult, individual, emotional decisions faced by each of them.
For more than a year their surgeries permeated their lives and those of their families. There were many difficult days, painful decisions, side effects to consider, trips to take, medications to endure, doctors to see, jobs to maintain, etc. This was a long painful journey, but it was also the year they began to embrace a new approach: ”Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.” And so they ‘danced’!
The sisters, all now in their 50s, are healthy, have resumed their active family and professional lives, and are surrounded by people who love them. They, their parents, and their families have responded with courage and compassion -- and a remarkable commitment to helping and educating others affected by hereditary cancer, hoping to save lives. Phebe and Frederick Downey, to honor their daughters, established the Downey Sisters’ Fund for BRCA Mutation Awareness and Education in 2009. It continues to be used to educate both the public and the medical community about the genetic risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
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