Downtime and indecisiveness are words that are not in Merilee A. Kern's
vocabulary. This 21st Century soccer mom owns and operates a thriving communications agency, founded and serves as Executive Editor for an internationally
syndicated lifestyle brand, is a regularly featured television personality,
and her prior accomplishments run the gamut from earning her MBA degree by age
23; to authoring an award-winning, first-of-its-kind obesity-related children's
book and APP; to winning multiple bodybuilding championships--a hardened fitness
regimen this "40-something" maven maintains even today. All of this as her two teenage children thrive as A students and extracurricular sports MVPs.
Merilee is, in fact, the very definition of a renaissance woman: a savvy
entrepreneur, media personality, author, journalist, publicist, athlete, health
advocate, and proud single mother.
She is also BRCA1
positive, putting her at a sharply increased, near guaranteed risk of
developing breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer in her lifetime.
When, in her early 40's,
Merilee was unexpectedly given what she now calls "the gift of knowledge"
that she carried the “faulty” BRCA1 gene, making a breast and/or ovarian cancer diagnosis
in her future more likely than not, she was faced with a litany of excruciating decisions that would
ultimately change--and give--her life. As Angelina
other brave and resilient cancer-free women have chosen to do, Merilee
opted to take preventive action and have a prophylactic double
mastectomy in addition to a bilateral oophorectomy and hysterectomy to take her near certain risk of
developing one or both cancers down to almost zero. Merilee asserts, "It was the hardest
decision that couldn't have been easier to make."
At a time of her life when
Merilee was "in the thick" of a contentious 3-year long divorce
battle; navigating the awkward and insecure waters of being an "admittedly
vain" single woman in her 40's re-entering the dating scene; managing multiple professional interests now as the
sole breadwinner in her home; keeping
her children's lofty academic standards and extracurricular activity schedule
"on course"; and as her own mother who lived 3,000 miles away from
her was bravely fighting a BRCA-related cancer
of her own that ultimately claimed her life, Merilee dove head first into
surgical intervention that, although it significantly altered her body, has
uplifted her spirit and has given her
strength in so many unexpected ways. And, what a long strange trip it's been.
Merilee now shares her
story, which is rife with ups, downs and ridiculousness, with other women to
give them insight into what goes into making a decision of this nature and
caliber, what's involved in the process when choosing this surgical course
(whether as proactive/preventative or a
reactive measure to cancer), and how incredible
the final physical result can be. She also seeks to uplift and inspire both
women and men who face their own difficulties and challenges (health-related an
otherwise), even when multiple
adversities present at once--and how to dig deep to tap their inner well of strength, resolve, and tenacity needed
to stay the course…and come out on the other side better than ever.
Ultimately, Merilee's message
echoes and underscores the sentiment Angelina Jolie so eloquently stated in her
New York Times op-ed: "Life comes with many challenges. The ones
that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."