Karen Malkin Lazarovitz, founder of the 10,000 member BRCA Sisterhood Facebook group makes it happen. After her preventive surgeries and breast reconstruction 10 years ago, she started something special. Today, this supportive space for women diagnosed with BRCA buzzes with activity.
She is also the woman behind BeautyOnMyTerms.com – and she is busy and frank. Along with managing a family, she is the face of grace for thousands. A fast way to “get” her is to watch her tattoo journey video after her arduous double mastectomy at https://youtu.be/TK29RtliNt0.
She’s in constant motion. Spending a few minutes to check in with her was precious for me. Here are some of her thoughts about what she sees and hears from fellow previvors:
Body Image Matters
After a double mastectomy, women have to deal with their ‘war torn’ bodies. They wonder, “How will others see me?” “What am I going to look like?” Pain and complications can make it worse. We are so critical of our bodies. We need to love them. No matter how they look.
Loved Ones Need Space, Too
Being with yourself, even with a supportive partner, isn’t always easy. Learning how to deal with your changed body after surgery is lonely and complex. Making sure that those we love are able to have a break is critical, too.
Openness Has Challenges
Although we are much more open about BRCA today, it can make it overwhelming for women. The wide range of images on the Internet of women after mastectomies can open conversations. So can support groups. They can also confuse and upset patients. Every woman’s situation is different. Her path will be unique.
The Real Deal is Best
There is a myth that the best part of all is reconstruction. That “free boobs” are the bomb. I liked and miss my real boobs. I could feel them. I could nurse children with them. I didn’t have to worry about my implants leaking or causing me pain.
Moving Forward is a Chore
Previvors tend to think that the worst is over after surgery. But it’s a marathon. You are thrown into a New Normal life that is filled with many questions. And many worries.
I like the quote by Maya Angelou,
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” As we learn, we grow. And we manage our anxiety, bit by bit.
There is Power in Previvors
Women who have lived with BRCA issues, surgeries and recovery have much to give and to teach. For newly diagnosed patients, there is great comfort in connecting with those who have been in their shoes – and survived. No one has all of the answers. But each of us can lift someone up with a simple touch or tender ear.
Karen gives scores of women a place to share their thoughts and concerns. She balances this passion with Backgammon, Netflix, books, hanging out with girlfriends and her husband, and participating in her children’s lives.
Part of her tonic is also inspiration. Frankie, the bearded dragon she bought for her kids, is “the loveliest lizard by far.” “I even wrap him in a little blanket at night – who knew that he would be the best beastie in my world?”
Be the Change that You Want to See
She sums up her vision by recalling a favorite poem of hers, The Dash. “It is a call to be purposeful in how we live our lives,” she says. What truly matters is what happens between the day you are born and the day that you die.”
Karen knows that the fear of cancer is scary. That it can take everything away from you. Through her Facebook BRCA Sisterhood group, BeautyOnMyTerms.com and her contributions at CancerFightClub.com and P-ink.org she is opening doors for strength to walk in.