Helen Smith's mother was 35 years old when she diagnosed with breast cancer.
"My mother and grandmother died of breast cancer before the age of 50," Smith said. "Cancer's always been in my life. I've lost a lot of people to it."
Smith, 41, a Grove City resident, is one of 50 women whose story is featured in The Pink Moon Lovelies, Empowering Stories of Survival, a book highlighting the personal battles of women who are breast and ovarian cancer survivors or "previvors."
"Our lives have all been affected by breast or ovarian cancer," Smith said.
In 2009, Smith learned she had the BRCA gene mutation, a genetic pre-disposition which leaves women with a much greater chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
"I felt like a ticking time bomb," she said. "With those kinds of odds, I wasn't willing to gamble."
Smith underwent a number of surgeries, including an oophorectomy, a hysterectomy and a mastectomy to dramatically reduce her chances of cancer.
"I was basically thrust into surgical menopause overnight," she said. "All of this was risk-reducing. It was the choice I made."
After her surgeries, Smith joined a support group on Facebook, "Beyond the Pink Moon," named for the book written by Nicki Boscia Durlester, herself a cancer survivor. The group includes 1,300 members from several countries including Australia, Canada, England, France, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Tasmania and the United States.
It is from this group the book sprang.
"When I started the group, I suggested the members write down their stories," Durlester said. "Their stories were so moving and remarkable ... Together, we're making a difference."
Durlester said the book is intended to save lives, to encourage people to keep track of their health and to be checked regularly.
"Early detection is the key," she said. "Until there's a cure, that's all we have."
Durlester said when she wrote her book, she found it cathartic and empowering.
"These are brave, courageous women," she said. "It's not easy to stand up, tell your story and open up."
Smith said it was hard writing about her mother.
"You have to relive it a bit," she said. "It was tough watching her go through with that."
Smith said she also wanted to give back for all the support she had received from the group, her family and others.
"We support each other," she said. "There's nothing like having the support of the people who have walked a mile in your shoes."
The Pink Moon Lovelies, Empowering Stories of Survival has been published by CreateSpace, a self-publishing company.
It is available Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and other online outlets, as well as Barnes & Noble stores. All proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to breast and ovarian cancer research.