Mary Beth McAteer
My FORCE story dates back to 2019 when my primary care provider at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health in Seattle, WA suggested that I pursue genetic testing since I am adopted and had limited knowledge of my medical history. When my test came back positive for Lynch syndrome (a PMS2 mutation) and an ATM mutation in July of that year, I was overwhelmed and confused. It was a life-altering moment, a situation over which I had no control. When I turned to FORCE’s website and resources, a burden was lifted. I gathered the information I needed to make informed decisions and reclaim my sense of security postdiagnosis. I credit both FORCE and my multidisciplinary care team at Virginia Mason for empowering me in the face of so much uncertainty and supporting me through difficult medical decisions both then and now.
That initial experience with FORCE was so impressive that I immediately knew I wanted to give back and help support its mission. I now volunteer for FORCE as a Peer Navigator, Research Advocate and Lynch Syndrome Virtual Meeting Co-Leader. FORCE and the people I meet through this remarkable organization have become a lifeline of community and support for me, particularly because of my unique family situation.
As I deal with the ramifications of hereditary cancer gene mutations, my FORCE relationships are both rewarding and meaningful. Each time I communicate with a peer, participate in a virtual meeting, attend a conference or enroll in a research study, I learn so much and feel so empowered, and I am reminded that we are not alone in this journey. What an amazing gift!
I was diagnosed with the MSH6 mutation of Lynch syndrome in 2017. My cousin, who was diagnosed with uterine cancer, had been tested when several family members either had a similar diagnosis or were diagnosed with stomach/colon cancer. She attempted to contact as many family members as possible so that they could be proactive about their health. I am very thankful for her reaching out to me, even though I had been estranged from my immediate family for a number of years.
I found FORCE through Twitter. One day, as I posted about Lynch syndrome and searched hashtags, the official social media page for FORCE showed up in the search options. I decided to follow them and attend several Lynch syndrome/Previvor support meetings to see what they were all about. I’ve been a FORCE member ever since.
I volunteer for FORCE because I do not want anyone to be alone with their diagnosis. Being estranged from my family, I had to make all of my decisions about my health alone. It was scary. I had to do what was best for me in 2017, and I really wish that I had known about FORCE years ago. I think it would have made my decision process a bit easier moving forward.
After my first mammogram and biopsy at age 40, I received the call on a Wednesday evening with the news about my diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer. A month later, I sat in my kitchen and read my genetic testing results: “Positive for Lynch syndrome.” Going through a cancer diagnosis during COVID had its own set of challenges, one of them being the isolation.
As a marriage and family therapist, I encourage people to be their own advocates, so I took my own advice and started searching for a place to receive emotional support and resources on heredity cancer. I came across the FORCE website and was amazed at the wealth of knowledge and support they provided. I immediately requested a Peer Navigator and attended FORCE community group meetings.
As others in the FORCE community shared their stories, I found that I felt less alone and more empowered in my journey. The individualized support provided by FORCE was so beneficial to me that I knew I wanted to be involved, and I joined later as a volunteer.