PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We are gearing up for the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for breast cancer. This year’s theme is “We Are Family.”
For one family, their bond is stronger because of breast cancer, and it’s also a little scarier.
Ann Lewis has had a fascination with elephants since childhood.
“I’ve loved elephants my whole life. I would always draw them. I always had stuffed animals growing up of elephants,” said Lewis.
She turned her passion into action and now works with the Humane Society to help save these majestic creatures from extinction.
But now Lewis is working to protect something much closer to home – her almost 2-year-old twin girls.
“Ann’s probably the result of a perfect storm because both sides of the family have extensive breast cancer,” said her mother Barb Clingan.
Lewis’ two great grandmothers, both grandmothers and her own mom – who was diagnosed twice – all had breast cancer.
“I always thought in the back of my mind that I would proactively do something about it after I had children,” said Lewis.
Things didn’t go according to plan. Lewis, herself, was diagnosed before she and her husband John had a chance to start their family. She was just 33.
However, several years later, after a double mastectomy, multiple rounds of chemotherapy, and sometimes in a blonde bob wig, Ann and John welcomed little baby Hadley and tiny baby Ellie into the world. The name Ellie is a nod to Ann’s beloved elephants.
The girls were born via a surrogate, but they carry their parents’ genes, and possibly the BRCA 2 gene that Ann has, which predisposes her to certain cancers.
“And, so, because of our strong family history and because I have the BRCA 2 gene, there’s a strong chance that they’re gonna face this when they get older,” said Lewis.
“We so wanted grandchildren and we’re fortunate enough to have two girls but that’s also the bad news because of the strong genetic background. I guess our hope is that there will be a cure before they can be affected,” said Clingan.
Lewis and her team of bosom buddies will walk in the Race for the Cure with the thousands hoping to raise money and awareness that people learn their family history and take active roles in their own preventive health.
“If I wasn’t proactive in getting the genetic testing done, ultimately moving into a high-risk program where I was tracked pretty regularly, I wouldn’t be here today.
Her ultimate hope is that her children don’t have to deal with breast cancer.
“So Hadley and Ellie hopefully don’t have to deal with this when they’re older. Hopefully we have a cure by then,” said Lewis.
Even though she’s a six-year survivor and has participated in numerous Race for the Cure, Lewis kept her own battle with breast cancer relatively private. This will be the first race that she publicly walks down the steps of the Art Museum with her fellow survivors. It should be quite a moment for her and her girls, who will also be there with their mommy on Mother’s Day.