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Health Team

Raleigh woman pens story of breast cancer 'pre-vivor'

Posted May 14, 2013 6:05 p.m. EDT
Updated May 14, 2013 7:25 p.m. EDT

— News of Angelina Jolie's preventative double mastectomy sparked a national discussion about breast cancer and treatment options Tuesday.

Debbie Horwitz of Raleigh has contributed to that conversation with two books about the emotional and physical challenges that come with the breast reconstruction process.

Horwitz knew her risk of developing breast cancer was high.

"My grandmother died when I was a baby of uterine cancer. She had had breast cancer," she said. "My mom died when I was 9 years old. She was 39. She had breast cancer."

At the age of 32, Horwitz herself discovered a cancerous lump in her breast. 

She had a double mastectomy, and documented her experience with breast reconstruction as a guide for other women called "Myself: Together Again." She later wrote a second book, "Sherri's Story," about a woman who elected to have the procedure because, like Jolie, she carried a gene mutation that sharply increases breast cancer risk.

"I'm so glad we chose to do that book with someone who had not had cancer," Horwitz said. "I think there's just a growing group out there, and they call themselves 'pre-vivors.'"

She said women like Sherri face difficult choices, but have more options than women who have already developed cancer.

"They are choosing this surgery because they want to live, and they don't want to wait for a cancer diagnosis. I think it's very brave of them to make that decision. I didn't have a choice," Horwitz said.

"A healthy woman choosing to have this surgery absolutely has more options," she added. "The biggest thing is they're healthy going into it."