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Pav, Ipswich, MA

     

  Voices of Force

Age: 45

The love and support of family, friends, and the FORCE community as I made this journey through cancer and BRCA 1.

I'm more than my risk… some fun facts about myself:

Favorite book / authors:
Elizabeth George (love mysteries)

Favorite TV / Movies:
Currently "Game of Thrones"

Favorite Quote:
"She believed she could, so she did."

Favorite Song:
Currently "#thatpower" by Judith Hill

 

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My journey

At 43 I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer through a routine mammogram, my first in 10 years. I opted for genetic testing because of my age and some family history of breast cancer (maternal aunt, paternal grandmother). I got the news that I was BRCA 1+ the day after my lumpectomy, which changed my whole treatment plan going forward. It felt like a one-two punch: breast cancer and a life-threatening mutation.
I am a nurse and a caregiver by nature. A wise person I spoke with while struggling with my diagnosis advised me to accept this as a learning experience: learning how to ask for and receive help, something which did not come naturally to me. When I did that, what seemed like a miracle happened. Our family and friends came together and supported us through it. They brought meals, drove me to chemo and kept me company while I got treatment, called with good wishes, sent cards and flowers and prayers and love. It was such a blessing. The FORCE community was such a wonderful source of information and support - until I found FORCE I felt very alone in my BRCA 1 status.
Today I am coming up on my two year anniversary of being cancer-free (God willing). I have gone through lumpectomy, chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and had my Fallopian tubes ann ovaries removed lst October. I am member of the "All Done" club and am working on my health and looking forward to the next FORCE convention in Philly.

The hardest part of my journey

I think that our mortality is very abstract when we are younger. Death seems a long way off. Cancer changes that - it becomes very concrete and immediate. For many cancer survivors, especially those with genetic predispositions, you wonder, "Is it all gone? Will it come back?" And then you try to push those thoughts back into the cave and stay in the moment. But it's scary and it's always there.

If I could do it over again

Not really - it would have been nice to have had the genetic testing results back before the lumpectomy since I could have saved myself a surgery, but it worked out in the end.

My participation with FORCE

I went to my first Boston FORCE meeting bald from chemo and getting ready for my BPM. I found a rooms full of vibrant women, some of them previvors, some survivors, some still in treatment. There was so much laughter and hope in that room, so much strength in those women. It made everything seem less frightening and I saw that there was a life beyond this experience. They were the first other BRCA + women I had ever met and I didn't feel alone anymore.

Other thoughts

My husband was AMAZING through this! We celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary this year and he is the love of my life and my rock. My two sons (11 and 14) are sweet and I can't say enough about them. My sister is an OB/GYN and has held my hand throughout this whole thing - we joke that she is working off her guilt for being BRCA negative! My mother and sister both tested negative for the mutation and my father is in good health and has had no health issues around his BRCA 1+ status. I am grateful to the many health professionals who have taken such good care me in the past two years and still do. I feel very blessed that I am alive and healthy.

 


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