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Q&A with ELLE’s Nina Garcia About Her Personal Connection to Breast Cancer

By BCRF | October 16, 2019

The Editor-in-Chief of ELLE magazine will host BCRF’s upcoming Symposium & Awards Luncheon

Nina Garcia, Editor-in-Chief of ELLE, will host the 2019 New York Symposium & Awards Luncheon on Thursday, October 17. She will help award BCRF’s nearly 275 investigators with $66 million in grants that will fuel research progress through the coming year.

For Nina, this cause is close to her heart. In February, Nina shared that she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy after learning she has a mutation in the BARD1 gene, a gene that interacts with the BRCA1 gene, which may increase her risk of developing breast cancer. Ahead of the Luncheon, we spoke to Nina about her experience and the importance of funding critically needed breast cancer research.

Before your own experience, how were you personally impacted by breast cancer? What led you to receive genetic counseling? I have a family history of breast cancer and have seen many friends go through genetic testing, surgeries and treatments. It felt like I was surrounded by the disease. In 2015, I decided to take control and get tested. As it turns out, I have a mutation to the BARD1 gene, which interacts with the BRCA1 gene.

A preventative double mastectomy is a tough choice. How did you come to that decision? For three years, I was monitored closely, getting regular mammograms and breast checks. I received numerous biopsies and lumpectomies and had countless doctors visits. Every day I thought: Is this the day I will get cancer? The only way to quiet that voice was to get the surgery.

You described the tremendous amount of support you received both before and after your surgery. Is there a particular anecdote that comes to mind from family or friends who helped you during this difficult time? I received more emails, texts, calls and notes than I ever have in my life. I thought I was inundated with support when I started as Editor-in-Chief of ELLE, but the outpouring of love I received after announcing my decision to undergo surgery was simply unmatched. One friend showed up and didn’t leave my side until I was recovered from surgery and back at work. There is a beautiful community of women out there, a community I could not be prouder to be a part of.

How did breast cancer research impact your journey? Without breast cancer research, we would not know about genetic testing and what that means for individuals with mutations to the BRCA gene. I would not have known I was susceptible. I would not have been monitored so rigorously, nor would I have been able to elect to undergo a preventative mastectomy. Without the strides that have been made in this field, I might have had a very different outcome.

Why did you decide to go public with your experience? Transparency is a powerful thing. It’s true that the fashion world isn’t always the most open about everything, but I’ve learned that you don’t need to be afraid to look vulnerable if you are faced with a health condition. Your community will support you. I hope that my story can educate other women about what their options are. 

Why do you support BCRF and our mission? Doctors still aren’t sure what specific effect the BARD1 gene has on the BRCA gene; with the research BCRF is doing, those answers are within our grasp. Those answers and more. More testing, more understanding, more prevention, and, eventually, a cure.

To learn more about the research BCRF is supporting this year, visit Our Impact.