By Valerie Fogerty
It is helpful to have a good relationship with your doctors! There is a lot of breast cancer in my family and I shared this with my OB/GYN. Upon hearing this, she encouraged me to have genetic counseling and testing. At this point, I am the only person in my family who has elected to complete testing. I understand that it is a very personal choice, but I also believe it is my responsibility to educate and inform family members so they can make their own personal decisions.
I was not surprised to learn that I had a CHEK2 mutation that increases my risk for breast, colon and other cancers; however, it was not an easy result to hear. I did a lot of research, talked to several doctors and genetic counselors to understand my risk and have ultimately made decisions about my health. At this time, I have chosen surveillance and get yearly breast MRIs, in addition to several manual exams. I had a colonoscopy a few years ago as a baseline and receive thyroid ultrasounds every three years. I have also made a concerted effort to eat less processed and more organic foods and to exercise regularly.
FORCE is a community of strong individuals. It has been a great way for me to connect with others who have experienced similar journeys. I love being a FORCE Peer Navigator, connecting people with personalized resources and helping them find their best path. I am grateful that FORCE is doing more with lesser-known mutations so that we can all have the same level of education and support.
If I had to give one piece of advice to someone just learning they have a genetic mutation, I would tell them to take the time to learn as much as they can and be their own advocate. There are amazing doctors, genetic counselors and resources available and everyone must make the decisions that are best for them.
Valerie Fogerty, CHEK2 Previvor