Survivor Credits Genetic Testing and Pre-Emptive Surgeries that “Saved My Life”


Caren Rudman

Caren Rudman considers herself among the lucky ones.

More than 13 years ago, she and her sister Lori Loeb tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, which greatly increases a woman’s chance of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. The sisters had lost their five great aunts and their great grandmother to the cancer-causing gene mutation at a time when preventive testing to identify the risk was rarely performed. 

Genetic tests can now check for BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations in people with a family history of cancer with a simple blood or saliva test. Rudman’s mother, at age 77, is a breast cancer survivor of 17 years.

Rudman, now 50, an artist and the mother of four, had a preventive hysterectomy at 39 and a mastectomy when she was 47. Her sister, a single mother, had a breast cancer scare and so she, too, had both a mastectomy and hysterectomy when she was 51. Sadly, these preventive surgeries were too late for Loeb, who died of ovarian cancer last summer at the age of 54, leaving behind her five-year-old daughter Rebecca. Rudman said she has two daughters who will be tested when they are emotionally ready.

“My surgeries saved my life,” said Rudman. “The genetic information I received gave me the motivation to act and do something about it. For the last six years, I’ve been very proactive, becoming a patient advocate for genetic testing through giving speeches and through my art that reflects living the bridge between health and disease, to express both the pain and hopefulness of living with the threat of cancer.” This year’s exhibit at The Art Center of Highland Park opens September 12 and will focus on that theme. 

“How was I able to help so many women, but not my own sister?” asked Rudman. “Unfortunately, she might have waited too long to have the surgeries and, it turned out, her cells were resistant to treatment.” Rudman’s family chose to support NorthShore while honoring Loeb's memory, raising $12,000 from friends and family to help women take preventive steps against these deadly diseases through the ovarian cancer research of her physician, Gustavo Rodriguez, MD, Director of NorthShore’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology.

In addition, Rudman and her family also joined with this year’s Embrace the Race 5K to support personalized treatments for those with breast or ovarian cancer at NorthShore, dedicating the Mother’s Day Race this past May to Loeb’s legacy. Donations from Embrace the Race are benefiting the new Center for Personalized Medicine. “This year we raised more than $12,000 to support Personalized Medicine at NorthShore, bringing our total to about $24,000,” said Rudman.

To support the Center for Personalized Medicine, go to foundation.northshore.org/donate

To make a donation, please visit, www.foundation.northshore.org/loriloeb.

 

 

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