Family channels grief into an initiative to help people predisposed to hereditary cancer
By Stacey Bomser
Photography by Sonya Revell
Max and Haleigh Youtie
fter Eileen Youtie died of breast cancer in 2021 at age 66, her husband, Phil, and children Haleigh and Max were devastated. But rather than let their grief consume them, they rallied around a mission that was near and dear to Eileen’s heart: educating and advocating for patients with a genetic predisposition to cancer, like herself. Eileen carried the BRCA1 gene, a genetic mutation that increases a woman’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
The family’s healing process became a yearlong endeavor to launch the Eileen Youtie Predisposition Syndrome Initiative at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, where Eileen received care for eight years following her diagnosis. Their hope is that the program will save lives by providing specialized, coordinated care to individuals diagnosed with hereditary cancers, as well as those who are predisposed and at higher risk for cancers due to inherited genetic mutations.
“My mom helped so many people with cancer, and at risk for cancer, while she was alive. We are honored to continue that mission and overjoyed to be able to bring my mom’s vision to life through this initiative,” said Haleigh. “The fact that we got to work on this together, as a family, has really been such a beautiful thing, and it’s only the beginning.”
Eileen’s breast medical oncologist, Carmen Calfa, M.D., worked closely with the Youties on the initiative. She calls it groundbreaking.
“Recent breakthroughs in genetics have made it possible to predict and prevent cancers,” said Dr. Calfa, who is also medical co-director for the cancer survivorship program at Sylvester. “We now know that 5 to 10 percent of cancers are linked to genetic mutations. By identifying people at risk of cancer before it develops, we will be able to save so many lives. For that, Eileen would be so proud.”