At the age of forty-two, Joi learned that she has a genetic mutation on a gene known as BRCA2. The test results meant that her risk of getting breast cancer could be as high as 84 percent by age seventy and that her risk for ovarian cancer was also high. Compounding her risk was the fact that her mother had developed breast cancer in her forties. After much research and consultation, the result of which is this book, Joi made the difficult decision to undergo prophylactic mastectomies.
Joi has lived in Los Angeles for twenty years and is now a certified city dweller. She grew up on a farm in rural Missouri with cattle, horses, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, and even rabbits. Following high school, Joi enrolled in the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri but quickly discovered her love of writing and moved to the study of journalism. During Joi's junior year of college, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43. Joi's mom had a mastectomy and battled her cancer with nearly a year of chemotherapy all while helping care for the family farm and for Joi's younger brother.
Joi went to law school in Nashville at Vanderbilt University then moved to Los Angeles in 1989 to launch her legal career. After practicing law in Los Angeles for 13 years, Joi took the leap to become a stay-at-home mom. Never one to be idle, she immediately replaced paying work with volunteer work. Joi now devotes her time to raising her children and to breast cancer advocacy, including providing peer support for women who are struggling to decide what to do about their genetically inherited breast and ovarian cancer risk. She is an Outreach Coordinator for Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) -- the national organization for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer -- in Los Angeles, California and is an Advocate in Science for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Dr. Gordon is Director of the GenRISK Adult Genetics Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, the largest clinical adult genetics program on the West Coast; Co-director of the Cedars-Sinai Gilda Radner Ovarian and Breast Cancer Screening Program for high risk women; Associate Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles; and Director of Cancer Genetics at the Disney Family Cancer Center, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. Dr. Gordon's primary area of research is the prevention of breast cancer in high-risk patients, focusing on clinical prevention trials and novel genetic tests for breast cancer risk assessment. Dr. Gordon has authored numerous papers on breast and ovarian cancer genetics and lectures nationally.
Dr. Gordon began her study of genetics at Tulane University as an undergraduate then moved to the University of California, Irvine for her Master's in Genetic Counseling, a profession still in its infancy at that time. She is a New York native who found Orange County to be a bit of a culture shock initially. But she is an avid outdoorswoman and quickly fell in love with the climate and the combination of beach and mountains. Her genetic counseling work inspired her to go to medical school, with the plan to combine her genetics training with obstetrics. After medical school (and getting married) she moved to Los Angeles and began an Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). While she was doing this training, the BRCA genes were discovered, which suddenly opened an entire new frontier in preventive health. She decided to combine her gynecology training with internal medicine to pursue her vision of a career in women's health. She then completed a fellowship in Medical Genetics at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and UCLA, which had one of the earliest Adult Genetics programs.
At the completion of her genetics fellowship she joined the faculty of Cedars Sinai and UCLA in 2001, and became the Director of the GenRisk Adult Genetics program in 2003, co-director of the Gilda Radner Breast and Ovarian Screening Program and Director of Genetics for the Wasserman Breast Cancer Prevention program in 2009. Always striving to maintain work life balance, she has worked part time to remain more available to her children. A committed teacher, she was the Medical Director for the California State University Northridge Masters in Genetic Genetic Counseling Program from 2002-04 and continues to train genetic counselors, medical students, and residents. Her clinical research includes participation in preventive therapy trials and translation of genetics into primary care medicine.