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Volunteer Spotlight - Haley and Andrea

February 28, 2022

Volunteer Spotlight - Haley and Andrea

Hayley Blum

I cannot express in words how grateful I am for finding FORCE. This organization has changed my life for the better, and I truly mean that. Losing my mom to ovarian cancer at 15 years old was incredibly lonely. Being told at a young age that I needed to be monitored closely so I would not have the same outcome as my mom was very anxiety provoking. At 23 years old, I finally agreed to get tested for the genetic mutations and found out that I carried the BRCA1 mutation. I will never forget where I was when my physician called me and since that day, I felt like I would not have the chance to live a full life like everyone else I knew. However, that perspective finally started to shift for me when I became connected to the FORCE network and spoke to a local peer navigator for the first time. I felt so invigorated by the idea that I was not alone that I dove in head first to become a Community Leader facilitating community meetings in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. Through this process, I have found lifelong "sisters" that continue to be there for me as I am for them within North Carolina and beyond! Instead of feeling like I carry a secret around, I am beyond proud to be arm-in-arm with other previvors like me, and I have FORCE to thank for that.

Andrea Walens

I found FORCE after years of feeling alone in my diagnosis as a BRCA1 previvor. I have known since I was 14 that there was a BRCA1 mutation in my family. It wasn't until I was 22 that I decided to get tested. I remember the phone call like it was yesterday: "You have your mother's mutation." My world completely changed, and I suddenly felt like I was a ticking time bomb in a room by myself with no one who could understand. It took a few years before I felt strong enough to find others who were going through what I was facing. That's where FORCE came in. My first interaction with FORCE was a Peer Navigator phone call. For the first time, I didn't feel alone in my diagnosis. My Peer Navigator gave me resources, but also served as an outlet to share my frustrations and my accomplishments in this previvor journey. Someone who truly understood what it was like to be in my shoes. It took some more time for me to find my confidence in my diagnosis, but about a year after that phone call, I decided that I wanted to become more involved in FORCE as a volunteer.

I now serve as an Community Leader for the NC Triangle, a Peer Navigator, a Patient Advocate Leader, and just about anything else they let me do to volunteer with FORCE. I have found so much comfort in building my community through FORCE and have made some lasting friendships through my volunteer work. I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of FORCE leadership, specifically Diane and Sandy. They have empowered me on my weakest days and built me up on my strongest days. This community has saved my life, and I hope I can volunteer with FORCE for many more years to come.

Posted in: Volunteer Spotlight
Tags: BRCA , Hereditary Cancer , Previvor , FORCE , Volunteer

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