I was 21 when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer; she was only 45 at the time. Due to her young age at diagnosis, her doctors started to investigate our family history. My mom had two first cousins and two aunts who'd battled breast cancer (fun fact: one of those aunts had two instances of cancer, one in her 30s and another in her 60s, but now she's almost 100 years old!). Armed with this information, my mom chose to undergo genetic testing, which turned up positive for a BRCA2 mutation.
I waited until close to 25 to get tested myself, even though deep down I knew the results would be positive. The genetic counselor handed me a pamphlet for FORCE and I decided to look into it. I don't think I said more than two words at my first FORCE meeting - I was overwhelmed and shy, but I knew how important it was to connect with people in a similar situation.
I became a State Impact Leader volunteer in 2012. Since then, my FORCE family has been with me as I've undergone risk-reducing surgeries, surveillance, complications, and just life in general. I, also, love volunteering as a Peer Navigator. Through FORCE, I've learned a ton, found like-minded folks who understand what we "genetic mutants" go through, and most importantly, built lifelong friendships. It really does feel like we're all a family and I couldn't be more thankful.
In the beginning of 2008, I went to see a genetic counselor in Seattle. I got my results a few weeks later and the counselor gave me a hand out about FORCE. I decided to check out a meeting. I started to go to meetings on a regular basis. I found it so helpful to be with other women who were in my shoes. In 2010 while I was getting my screening done, my CA 125 was very high, but my ultrasound showed nothing abnormal. I went to see a gynecologic oncologist. She told me to watch it for a few months. My levels kept going up and down. The doctor recommended surgery. In July 2010, I had a full hysterectomy and oophorectomy. While I was in surgery a cyst that looked like ovarian cancer was found. She did a frozen section during the surgery to make sure it was not cancer! It turned out to not be cancer. At the age of 33 I went into menopause. I tried not to take any hormones. It was not working, so I went on bio-identical hormones. My symptoms of menopause slowly decreased. I decided a year later to have a risk-reducing DIEP flap mastectomy and did not have any complications. In 2015, I was asked to help with the Seattle FORCE group! It has been so rewarding to help others as they navigate their own journeys. I’m incredibly thankful for the sisters I’ve meet and the amazing friendships that have developed!!