By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Nancy Nolan | Produced by Ellen Scruggs | Hair & Makeup by Kakki Jones with Beauty & Style by Kakki
Lesley Murphy believes that “life’s an adventure” and invites friends + followers of her international travel blog to enjoy each getaway with her – sharing inspiration to plan their own. She considers herself “one of the luckiest girls in the world” and remembers her childhood in the the Natural State filled with “happy moments – lots of laughter and travel – with amazing parents.”
The initial impression of this global sensation – she’s stunningly beautiful + charming with a gracious temperament that’s undeniably Southern – is WOW, what a lifestyle! But there’s more to her story… She admits it’s important to “get out of the comfort zone” and take smart, calculated risks to keep life interesting. Some experiences are more transformative than others. “One of my most recent adventures was in an O.R. at UAMS – with doctors that changed my life, and my health forever.” Add strength and courage to her winning smile + personality. “I take chances and I never allow fear to win. Going through surgery wasn’t so different. I met people who lifted me up with their own experiences. I learned about my body. I certainly didn’t allow fear to win.”
With a history of cancer in her family, Lesley and her two sisters determined that BRCA genetic testing could potentially be a life-saving decision – consistent with their wellness philosophy. Lesley notes, “Being informed is so important because with knowledge comes power – you can choose to do something rather than wait and see. Modern medicine is an amazing thing.”
Every person is born with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but women who inherit mutations of the genes have up to an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 70. A BRCA gene mutation can also increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
The Murphy sisters completed their testing at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. The institute’s Cancer Genetics Clinic is home to the only cancer genetics team in Arkansas, which includes board-certified geneticists and genetic counselors who diagnose rare syndromes and manage complex cancer syndromes.
Living in South America as a young professional with a bustling career, Lesley scheduled the screening at UAMS while she was back in Arkansas. When she learned of her positive test results, she realized she faced some tough decisions. After careful consideration with her family and medical team, Lesley chose a prophylactic double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Genetics in the UAMS College of Medicine Dr. Kent D. McKelvey notes, “Each person ultimately has to make the choices that are best for themselves and their families. We are here to help people understand the evidence and options and guide them to make the best informed decisions.”
“Life is a journey – it’s about where you are and what you do along the way. I was dealt a BRCA gene mutation in life. What was I ultimately going to do with that knowledge? I believe I was given this experience in order to live a healthier life and inspire more women to undergo genetic testing – so that they, too, can gain more insight about their bodies and health – creating opportunity for a better future.”
Lesley utilized her global platform as a world-renowned traveler to share this very personal journey and generate more awareness for this seemingly controversial procedure. As a result of the double mastectomy, performed by UAMS Breast Surgeon Dr. Daniela Ochoa, Lesley has a vastly diminished risk of developing breast cancer. Her team of UAMS medical experts developed an individualized strategy for Lesley – from her screening to her reconstructive surgery. Congruent to its integrated approach to healthcare is the scope of services UAMS provides in a singular location, a key benefit unique to UAMS.
Improved services is paramount at UAMS WRCI, the state’s only academic research center with scientists who work to advance cancer care and prevention. It serves as a hub for innovative technology and medical exploration – where quality, accessible healthcare is a top priority. Each year at its signature event, Gala for Life, patrons enjoy fellowship and festivities that celebrate UAMS doctors and scientists for their commitment and dedication to the institution.
This year, guests can expect an evening of elegance and opulence – intrinsic to the drama of New York City. Encouraging formal black and white attire, the program promises unexpected delights and offers guests an exclusive Big Apple Package in partnership with the Little Rock Marriott. A portion of the net proceeds will benefit families with genetic risks for cancer and research to determine cancer genetics.
“Giving people their lives back makes UAMS extraordinary. Was I going to be diagnosed with cancer this year, next year or in the next ten years? Maybe not. But now, because I’ve significantly reduced the possibility of breast cancer, I can say that UAMS may have saved my life. Patients come from everywhere to be treated by these incredible doctors. We’re so fortunate that such an institution is in Arkansas.”