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My name is Annette and I am honored to be in the FORCE volunteer spotlight this month. I live in Castro Valley, Ca. with my husband, Robert who I have been happily married to for 29 years. We have three wonderful children-two married, each with beautiful babies, and the third currently living his dream traveling the world. Our golden retriever, Zoey, keeps us on our toes, and even as an eight year old “puppy”, she continues to have a mind of her own. She is most definitely our fourth child.
My story is similar to so many of yours where cancer has caused much pain and heartbreak. For me, I have been so incredibly fortunate. Not only have I been spared a cancer diagnosis, but nine years ago, when I tested positive for the BRCA 1 mutation, I was given the knowledge to hopefully never have to hear those words. I won’t lie; learning I had this mutation was extremely challenging. I was so overwhelmed and wanted to be proactive, but I was paralyzed with this information. Again, as so many of you understand, having to live with a risk in and of itself, can play mind games with you. Will I get cancer? When will I get cancer? Maybe I’ll be spared….Was I willing to take that chance? It was at this time that I discovered FORCE.
I will sound like a cliché but FORCE literally saved my life. Through the endless support I received from phone calls with volunteers, on coffee dates, support meetings and message board chats, I was able to move forward with my life and make the choices that were right for me. Of course, I would be remiss to not express my utmost gratitude to my family and friends for their love and unwavering support at that time. I had a complete hysterectomy shortly after finding out I was BRCA 1 positive, followed a year later by a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with implants. These impossible decisions were made possible because I knew I wasn’t alone.
This is how I came to be a volunteer. I find joy in being able to give the same support as others gave to me. I started volunteering years ago by first working the Helpline, (since those who know me know I like to talk-haha. I do more listening than talking, fortunately for the callers). I enjoyed it so much I decided to get more involved by becoming a local Peer Support Group Leader, and after that a Peer Navigator for the Peer Navigation Program. Each time a person tells me how grateful they are for my support, I know I am in the right place doing the right thing. My surgeries are in my past, but my connection to FORCE and all those lives that cross with mine, are my present and future.
If we haven’t yet met, I hope that someday we do. Who knows, we may become lifelong friends.