An Accidental Encounter with Annie Parker

Photographer: DA Visions Photography

The following is a guest post from the Nina Wible, mother, wife and advocate for women who are BRCA+.  She attended an exclusive FORCE screening of Decoding Annie Parker this month.  

It was National Previvor Day. For me, the chance to see a special screening of Decoding Annie Parker in Philadelphia was an incredible experience.  For many, this movie is a an empowering but often sad story of resilience and the race to find the BRCA gene.  For women who live with BRCA mutations, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer part of everyday life.  Decoding Annie Parker was a hard movie to watch for many of us who have lived with the realities of BRCA – but it is a necessary story to tell.

Decoding Annie Parker tells the story of two women, one loosely based on the story of Anne Parker, a three-time cancer survivor and the other of the brilliant geneticist, Mary Claire King. Director and writer Steven Bernstein melded the stories of several women he knew who had suffered with cancer into the story of Anne Parker to create the title character portrayed in the movie. His screenplay tells the story of Dr. King and her path to finding the link between chromosome 17 and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Photo taken by DA Visions Photography (http://davisions.com)

Photo taken by DA Visions Photography (http://davisions.com)

I learned the real Annie Parker is not only a 3-time cancer survivor, but also an incredibly humble, kind, and wonderful advocate and spokesperson for hereditary cancer causes.

Before the screening began, I filed into the theater to get a seat with some friends.  I must have chatted too much because the only seats left were the second row from the front. With our seats claimed, I decided to quickly run to the restroom before the movie began. I opened the door to an empty lobby, except for two people. They were walking in while I am coming out.

I looked up and said with the excitement of a middle schooler, “Excuse me, you are Annie Parker!”  She responded graciously and then I hugged her.  I told Annie I was so excited and honored to hear her story.  I said, “You know the best part about your story? You’re still here.”  She smiled and said, “What is your name?” as she put out her hand and shook mine and added, “Very nice to meet you.” I had interrupted her husband from taking a photo of her in front of the theater. I let them have their moment of privacy and headed to the restroom.

The truth is I didn’t really know Annie’s story.  Had I not just seen an interview of the real Annie Parker the afternoon before,  I could have easily walked right past her without a second thought. But there are no accidents in life.  It was a one of those great touching moments in life that I will carry with me forever.  …my own little slice of cinematic history!!

For the next 90 minutes I watched familiar recognition that the woman I had just accidentally bumped into had the same intimately painful experiences that I had lived through. Reflected in Annie’s story was my own life – so much pain from childhood through motherhood.  So much uncertainty – and so much incredible resilience.

After speaking with many other women, I realize that I wasn’t the only one who had the same strong emotions while watching the movie.   I also felt this sense of gratitude to this woman with whom I had only exchanged a few words.

Today, our choices are so much better thanks to women like Annie Parker and Marie Claire King.  But the story is still so much the same.  Live with fear, and learn to overcome the uncertainty that BRCA brings to our lives.  I am thankful that their story is finally being told.

Here is a preview….

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