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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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Voices of FORCE

Reaching Out to Family Members

by Lara Diamond

Lara DiamondAfter inadvertently testing positive for a BRCA2 mutation, my life was thrown into turmoil. At first, I wished I didn't have this information, but when my first breast MRI — ordered only because of my newly found BRCA status — revealed what turned out to be stage 1 breast cancer, I realized how important this information would be to my relatives.

Being a genealogist, I pulled out death certificates and obituaries that I'd been gathering for years. I was able to determine that the gene mutation likely came from one of my greatgreat- grandfathers (he was married 3 times, and children and grandchildren from all three wives had cancer at young ages). Not only did I reach out to my immediate family, but I was able to reach out to more distant cousins as well to let them know of this mutation in the family.

One branch of the family already knew they had a mutation, discovered after a cousin's ovarian cancer diagnosis. However, they hadn't reached out to my part of the family, since we were descended from a different wife. I explained how mutations are just as likely to come from men as women, a fact that too few understand.

I was able to tell my cousins how the knowledge of my having this mutation caught my cancer at a much earlier stage than it would have been otherwise. My reallife demonstration of the power of this knowledge led dozens of my relatives to test; in fact, my genetic counselor (whose name I had given everyone) asked me what I said to have so many people call her within a week for an appointment. Many relatives did test positive and can now be proactive with their health.

Lara Diamond is a BRCA2 mutation carrier, a mathematician and a genealogist.

Share Your Story

Do you have something to say that may inform our readers or ease their experience?
We invite you to share your reflections or personal story about dealing with
the issues of hereditary breast or ovarian cancer. Tell us how you feel, how you
cope, or what you've learned. E-mail stories of 500-550 words to info@facingourrisk.
org or mail to FORCE, 16057 Tampa Palms Blvd. W., Tampa, FL 33647. Please
include your name and daytime telephone number so we can contact you if we
decide to publish your story in a future issue.

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