It is the story of Anne Parker, a sharp witted, funny and irrepressible young woman who watches her mother, then sister, fall victim to breast cancer.
When, later, she herself is diagnosed with the disease, she is resolved to fight back against immeasurable odds.
The film is also the story of Mary-Claire King, the geneticist whose discovery of the BRCA1 gene and its link to breast cancer foreverchanged the understanding of human disease. Hers is considered one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century.
These two women are separated by thousands of miles, by circumstance, background and education, and yet, as told in the film, their two lives gradually intertwine over 15 years until a final, singular and life changing reckoning.
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11-year-old Annie Parker is living the perfect young life, loved by all, and especially by her mother, father, and older sister. But none of them knows that something horrible is stalking this perfect family. On a fall afternoon in 1976, young Annie hears a noise from upstairs. Her mother has collapsed and died, and an agonizing downward spiral begins, as we interweave her story with another…
Far away, a brilliant but eccentric research scientist named Mary-Claire King is enduring the extremes of both the success born of her genius, as well as her personal failures. While still in her twenties she has already made genetic discoveries of such profound significance that she was known throughout the world. But now she is on a courageous journey against the advice of virtually everyone who knew her—a journey that would take years of her life, almost ruin her reputation, deny her wealth and opportunity, but end in a breakthrough of such significance that it would be considered one of the most important scientific discoveries of the twentieth century and touch millions of lives—including that of a young woman living thousands of miles away, named Anne Parker. But that will be later.
At the age of 19, after the sudden death of her father, Anne marries Paul and soon is pregnant. She struggles to find a way in the world with her equally young but misguided husband and her older sister who tries to become a surrogate parent to Anne. But, cruelly, Anne’s sister contracts the same cancer that killed their mother, and in a few months, she too is dead.
Married, with a child, and only in her 20’s, Anne Parker’s challenges have hardly begun.
She herself is diagnosed with the same disease that killed her mother and sister—breast cancer. It is severe and surgery and chemotherapy with all its accompanying difficulties soon follows. She loses her hair and if that was that enough to endure, her husband, never really mature or stable, has begun an affair with Anne’s closest friend, and leaves her, shortly before she is diagnosed with a second cancer.
And this is where many stories would end; with tragedy of unimaginable anguish and an almost surreal relentlessness, but Anne Parker is not an ordinary woman and hers is not an ordinary story. With the help of a young doctor, Sean, and a new friend, Kim, Anne continues her fight. As each tragedy befalls her, something remarkable happens. She grows stronger. As each new sadness comes, she grows more resolved; as her world becomes darker, she becomes, well… funnier. So funny that she makes other patients laugh. So funny her doctors are far more serious about her illness than she is. So positive, that she becomes a life force onto herself, determined to survive it all. And something else—she believes that she must find the genetic secret that hid in her family
and had killed almost all of them. It becomes the focus of her considerable energies. But that answer would be long in coming and would need another woman, far away: Dr. Mary-Claire King.
While Annie struggles, Mary Claire King is wrestling in the laboratory with certain types of cancer. Contrary to all established medical views, she believes in a genetic link to these cancers—but her theories are rejected by her peers. Her requests for money for research are denied time and again. But she goes ahead with the research herself, with the help of a small, poorly paid team.
With what resources she can muster, Dr. King sets up a small lab. But it’s simply not enough. She fails to produce any evidence to support her theories, and it’s only her faith in her ideas that sustains her. She becomes particularly interested in a certain type of breast cancer that seems to pass through families. The same type that killed the Parker family.
Dr. King takes other jobs to support herself and her research. But finally, remarkably, against all odds, she and her band of workers begin to put together evidence. As science advances, important new resources become available to her, and as computers rapidly evolve and allow for quicker processing of data, what seemed impossible when she started, now seems tantalizingly close.
On one late autumn afternoon, years after starting her research, it happens. Dr. King and her team the the way to prove the link between certain types of deadly breast cancer and the failure of a gene. They called it the BRCA-1 Gene and when Mary subsequently publishes her findings, they are universally hailed as a discovery of unimaginable importance.
Mary Claire King ended up on the cover of Time magazine; and Anne Parker finally had the answer she herself had long sought. This same Anne Parker who was now happily remarried. The Anne Parker who a few years later would contract cancer for a third time.
A third time. And she would survive again. And she laughed while being treated, for reasons only she knew and understood.
Anne Parker still lives a full life to this day.
Credit : Facebook Decoding Annie Parker Page