Los Angeles,
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Family's Battle With Cancer Draws Nurse Into Run for Her

Los Angeles - Oct. 27, 2014 – Brenda Durand, RN, became a nurse because of her mother, Bonnie, who spent most of her career working as a nurse in a cardiac catheterization lab. Bonnie's gentle and caring personality helped make patients feel at ease as they walked through difficult times in their lives, and that, says her daughter, inspired her to follow in her mother's footsteps.

Durand has been a nurse for most of her adult life. Since 2009 she has worked as a liver transplant coordinator at the Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center, helping patients prepare for the major surgery and new life as a transplant survivor. But neither of the women's healthcare careers prepared them for their own looming medical crisis.

Durand and her mother, Bonnie, who lost her life to ovarian cancer in 2012

In 2004 Bonnie was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer at age 63. The news came as a complete surprise. "We didn't know or recognize the symptoms my mother was experiencing," Durand said.

Then, in 2006, two years after Bonnie's diagnosis, Brenda's 44-year-old sister was told she had breast cancer. These diagnoses prompted the Durand women to be tested for the BRCA gene mutation. The results came back: All three women carried the BRCA 1 mutation, putting them at greater risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

"The BRCA genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, are just two of the approximately 25,000 genes that make us human beings," said Durand's gynecologic oncologist Beth Y. Karlan, MD, director of the Women's Cancer Program at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. "When altered, these mutated genes can increase an individual's risk of cancer. I always encourage patients to learn about their family history, on both their mother's and father's side of the family, and then to have a discussion with their physician regarding genetic counseling and genetic testing to further identify inherited risks. This information can potentially be lifesaving."

Two years after learning of her high-risk status, Durand took action, undergoing a prophylactic mastectomy and an oophorectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the ovaries. Durand relied on her sister, friends and co-workers for strength and support during this time.

"It was a tough choice," she said. "I was young, only 44 years old. I thought I was invincible. It was a lot to deal with."

While at a routine checkup with Karlan in 2008, Durand saw a flier for Run for Her®. The Los Angeles 5K Run and Friendship Walk, now celebrating its 10th year, is one of the nation's premier events to raise public awareness and research funds for the fight against ovarian cancer. Founded in 2005 by Kelli Sargent in honor of her mother, Nanci Sargent, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer six years ago, Run for Her supports the Women's Cancer Program at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.

Durand decided to participate in the event, taking another step to fight the disease and to educate women on its subtle symptoms. For four years, Bonnie helped her daughter raise funds for her Women's Cancer Program team.

Then in 2012, Bonnie lost her life to ovarian cancer. "She was strong; she fought this horrible disease until the end," said Durand.

Durand was back at Run for Her in 2013. The loss of her mother has strengthened her resolve to fight harder against ovarian cancer.

Durand's family and friends – including her sister, who is free of breast cancer after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – helped Durand raise funds and awareness. The Nov. 9 event will be Durand's seventh Run for Her.

"It's hard to explain the vibe you get when you see all the teal in Pan Pacific Park," Durand said. "The sun is coming up; there is a little bit of fog. It's the best run in the country, and I'm proud to be part of it."

Watch a video on how the Women's Cancer Program uses the money raised by Run for Her. For more information on Run for Her, please visit www.runforher.com.