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Joining FORCES is the FORCE newsletter with news, views and supportive information for individuals concerned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

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Conference 2015: Opening Session

by Katrina Altersitz Wells

The opening session of our 2015 Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer conference welcomed attendees with words of self empowerment and a renewed call to action.

Clinical psychologist Karen Hurley, PhD, explained how instinct can bring a sense of forward motion. "It's not a small thing to trust our instinct when we feel like our bodies have betrayed us," Hurley said. "But we can use the science to create a sense of wholeness — in building an alliance.

She cautioned attendees to not neglect their basic needs when becoming engulfed in overwhelming amounts of conference information, saying that food and sleep are of utmost importance, as are connections with other attendees. "Sometimes it feels like DNA holds the power, but our real power is in how we live our lives, given what life puts in front of us, what dreams we dream, what goals we achieve, who we love and how," Hurley said. "We live empowerment in our decisions and through our connections. We have come together today, this weekend, to make empowerment a reality."

Barbara Pfeiffer, CEO of FORCE, then called upon attendees to never lose vigilance. Fights that have been won — such as the implementation of GINA — are being challenged, and the HBOC community cannot afford to stay quiet. "We won that battle. We shouldn't be going back again," Pfeiffer said. "If we take our eyes off — if we don't make noise, they're not going to hear us."

Continuously fighting for what is needed will maintain the momentum to change the world for the children of the HBOC community, Pfeiffer explained. It should not be the same 10 years from now as it was 10 years ago. We need better choices than cutting off body parts. We need to keep this going.

Katrina is a BRCA1 carrier living in South Jersey with her husband and daughters. She works in medical publishing, and is using data and family history to navigate her journey.

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