PATRICK KOLB'S AWAKEN THE DRAGON INITIATIVE
I was 16 years old when I started working to raise awareness for hereditary cancer. I am currently a senior at ANC in Bryn Athyn, PA. Five years ago, I found a wrist band during a lacrosse tournament that read “Awaken the Dragon.” I immediately fell in love with the saying and the wristband itself. To find out more about the wristband that I wear every day, and will continue to wear, I googled the phrase “Awaken the Dragon” and found the documentary and foundation. Everything they have done inspired me. My grandmother passed away from cancer at the age of 37 and my mother tested positive for the BRCA2 gene. This motivated me to bring awareness to this film, foundation, and cancer research. I started my own Dragon Boat team and will race in the 2015 Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival under the Awaken the Dragon name. I am truly blessed to support the mission of such an amazing foundation. Thanks to all who support me in this effort.
"Marilyn Virginia May was said to be different, this ranging from her beliefs to her actions. She was a strong woman who disagreed with racism in the 1960’s, an era where racism was so common and thought to be a requirement in society. Since one of her best friends was a black artist that lived down the street by the name of Johnny Johnson, she had been going against the society that she lived in and their beliefs and common thoughts. I have every reason to believe she was a strong, independent woman that was not afraid to stray from social norms. She was my grandmother, but I was never able to meet her.
She died of breast cancer at the age of 37. She died a single mother with three young children at home – ages 7, 11, and 12. Three of her four aunts were diagnosed with breast cancer in their thirties or forties, and her sister went on to die of the disease in her early fifties.
My mother inherited her mother’s breast cancer genetic mutation. She tested positive for the breast cancer gene in January 2012. My mother is BRCA2 positive, putting her at 85% risk for 5c breast cancer and 35% risk of ovarian cancer. Breast cancer is curable if caught early; ovarian cancer is deadly and difficult to detect. My mother is a cancer researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, and so she understands her risk of the disease. She also understands her treatment options and what those options would mean to her health. She knew that her probabilities for getting cancer were near certainty. She knew that even if she found her cancer early, the treatment would most likely include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy because of her deadly family history. Chemotherapy and radiation work by destroying fast-growing cancer cells. Unfortunately with treatment, other types of fast-growing healthy cells also can be damaged along with cancer cells, causing side effects. Side effects can range from short-term flu-like symptoms and hair loss to long-term symptoms including fatigue, swelling, confusion, and memory loss. My mother believed that if she waited for her cancer to emerge, along with the anxiety she would endure, her quality of life after treatment would never be the same. So she decided to take six months from her life now and have both breasts removed, along with her ovaries, reducing her risk of breast and ovarian cancer to a level below the general population. My mom made the choice to be healthy for me, my sister, my dad, and for all of our family and friends. She believes that she was given the gift of “choosing health”.
October is breast cancer awareness month, and it is important to me because I know that I am at a higher risk for getting various cancers than the average person based on my genetic profile. My sister, aunt, uncle, and cousins are also at high risk. I plan to bring awareness to the importance of genetic testing by wearing pink, wearing and selling my pink “Awaken the Dragon” band (with donation of proceeds to the ATD organization), walking for the cause, and speaking about the importance of genetic testing whenever I can.
I hope that all of you will help me bring attention to cancer in coming years in as many ways possible. I also hope that my efforts will help in some way make people more comfortable with the discussion of genetic testing and making the choice to be healthy. "