Annie’s Story: Three-time Cancer Survivor

Annie Parker was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1951. When she was only 14 years old, she lost her mother to cancer. Twelve years later, her beloved sister, Joan, also died from the same disease.

Annie’s doctors told her it was “just bad luck”. She didn’t believe them. Annie became convinced that there had to be a genetic link for certain types of cancer. This belief also meant that she was convinced that she, too, would get cancer.

She did. In 1980, she developed breast cancer, had a mastectomy and survived. Her marriage didn’t.

Annie went on to survive two more cancers. Her life story was the inspiration for the 2013 film Decoding Annie Parker, and she is now an advocate for cancer care and genetic testing.

Annie on CTV’s The Social

Watch the interview from 29 October 2014.




In 1988, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. She had a hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, followed by chemotherapy. She survived.

The doctors still wouldn’t confirm that cancer could be hereditary and that there could be a genetic link for certain types of cancer.

Meanwhile, Dr Mary-Claire King, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, was researching the genetic roots of the disease, and discovered the gene that is responsible for many breast and ovarian cancers: BRCA1. Her discovery was revolutionary, and we now know that as many as 5 to 10% of all breast cancers may be hereditary.

In 1994, Annie Parker became one of the first women in Canada to be tested for the BRCA1 gene mutation. Her results were positive for the deadly gene.

Annie developed cancer again in 2006 and underwent another operation, followed by more chemotherapy. She survived.

Annie’s story, and that of Dr Mary-Claire King, inspired Hollywood film-maker Steve Bernstein to write and direct Decoding Annie Parker, a multi-award-winning film starring Samantha Morton, Helen Hunt and Aaron Paul.

Annie is writing her inspirational autobiography, to be published in 2014. “I knew there was a reason I survived, and I hope my story will be a beacon of hope for cancer victims and their families around the world.”