Jolie's pre-cancer double mastectomy hits home for local mom - WKRN News 2

Angelina Jolie's pre-cancer double mastectomy hits home for Wilson Co. mom

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WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. -

Amy Parker has never walked a red carpet. She's not married to a movie star. She hasn't traveled the world with her children.

But the Wilson County wife and mother of two has a lot in common with superstar Angelina Jolie.

Three years ago, Parker chose to have a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of cancer.

"I say, 'It's not if it happens. It's when it happens,'" she said of a possible cancer diagnosis.

Parker's father died of cancer at age 33. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer three months later. She lost her battle before Parker was 12 years old.

In the years that followed, Parker has been proactive about her health with regular screenings and tests.

At age 30, her first mammogram revealed an irregularity.

"I candidly told my doctor, 'If my insurance would cover it, I'd have my breasts cut off today,'" Parker said.

After many conversations with her doctor, her husband and her support group, Parker, at age 32, chose to have a preventative double mastectomy, a surgical procedure to remove both breasts before a cancer diagnosis.

The radical move was questioned by other women, but never by Parker.

"I wanted to get cancer before it got me," she said. "As soon as insurance would approve it, and I knew my husband had my back, it was the easiest decision I've made."

Parker's decision came three years before actress Angelina Jolie made the same choice, after genetic testing revealed she had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer.

Often referred to as the most beautiful woman in the world, Jolie told the New York Times she didn't feel any less of a woman following the procedure.

Genetic testing for cancer risks has been available since the mid-90s. Testing determines whether a patient carries the gene mutation that creates a higher risk for breast or ovarian cancers. Testing is currently offered by only one provider, Myriad Genetics; but accessibility and affordability (through insurance coverage) have improved in recent years.

Doctors and patients, like Parker, have come forward to applaud Jolie's decision as a strong message for anyone with a high risk of cancer.

"It's not for everyone," said Parker. "(But) I think there is a misconception that you have to have a cancer diagnosis before you can make the radical choice to protect yourself."

Three years after her own painful recovery and reconstruction, Parker has no regrets.

"I went from 37% to less than 5 (percent), and I really like those numbers," she said.

Parker is now helping her best friend through her breast cancer diagnosis and double mastectomy. She's organized a yard sale to help pay for her friend's treatment and recovery.

A "Sale for Sarah" is set for Friday, May 17, and Sunday, May 18, in the Lankford Farms subdivision in Old Hickory.

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