By Savannah Campbell
Cancer runs in my dad’s family. His mother and all three of her sisters had breast cancer. The family medical history prior to my grandmother’s generation is unclear, but we have reason to believe that my great grandmother had breast cancer (as did another male relative). In August 2018, my dad was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. His diagnosis was very difficult. We are grateful today, 13 months later, that he is doing well.
At the time of my father’s diagnosis, it was recommended that he have genetic testing. It was not surprising that he tested positive for a BRCA genetic mutation. The family history made sense now. At the time, I was a college student studying biology, so I understood the science of a genetic mutation. I knew I needed to be tested, but I also felt confident that I would test negative.
I was not nervous when I opened the report with my test results inside, but I was surprised to see that I, too, tested positive for a BRCA genetic mutation. I felt more resigned than upset or shocked at the results. I knew what this meant for me, so I began researching screening and surgery options.
I decided that after graduation I would have a prophylactic double mastectomy to reduce my risk of the breast cancer that was so prevalent in my dad’s family. I had the surgery when I was 22 years old. Doing so made me feel empowered and grateful that I could take control of my health and future.
The experience of my dad’s cancer diagnosis and my own surgery made me want to volunteer with an organization that supports people with cancer, since my coping style is to fight back! I knew I was in the right place when I found FORCE, because FORCE is a community of people who understand the complexities of hereditary cancer.
To me, FORCE provides the opportunity to learn and to fight back! Every person who is able to make a connection with someone like them or get information on screening and treatment options is taking a step in understanding their risks and doing what is best for their personal situation. FORCE provides this empowerment.
It has been a difficult 13 months, but I now know that things will be okay. I am not alone and neither are you! It sounds cliché, but it is true. Having a mutation is ugly. You or your family members may be sick, decisions have to be made and loved ones informed but, after the dust settles, you will still be standing. FORCE is where I realized I truly was not alone. Having FORCE by my side has been like having a huge group of supportive friends right at my fingertips. Savannah Campbell, BRCA Previvor