by Stephanie Heisser
My relationship with FORCE began in 2011. Before finding FORCE, I believed it was just a matter of when, not if I would be diagnosed with cancer. Breast and prostate cancer ran through every generation of my dad’s family, and it wasn’t until my cousin’s positive test for a BRCA2 mutation that we knew why. I felt like a dark cloud was hovering. So, after I also tested positive for the mutation, I acted quickly and scheduled a preventive mastectomy. While I was relieved to have acted, it was an isolating time since I didn’t know anyone else in my situation. Luckily, I found FORCE!
Through FORCE, I found community with other previvors and support from survivors. And though I’ve known of my BRCA2 status for more than a decade, the need for support and community doesn’t end. Attending support meetings gave me a place to feel “normal” with others like myself and gain strength from our shared experiences. I have also learned so much about risk, prevention, screening guidelines and options from others in meetings and the research updates that FORCE provides.
Wanting to give back to others after gaining so much, I became a Peer Navigator, a Community Leader (initially in Portland, Oregon and currently in the Twin Cities, Minnesota) and now a Virtual Meeting Leader. Through the many support programs and national conferences, I have had the opportunity to meet, learn, find and give support to others. Being a part of FORCE and the relationships that I have built as a result is truly life-changing. While this journey isn't an easy one, it's a gift not to travel it alone.
by Pam Hennen
My family’s experience with inherited cancer began with my diagnosis 10 years ago this month. I didn’t think of us as a cancer family but I knew my grandmother had died of breast cancer in her early 40s. I found out later her sister also died early of breast cancer. A smart surgeon started connecting the dots, so it wasn’t surprising when my genetic test came back positive for a BRCA1 mutation. About six months into treatment I found FORCE. I joined a local support group; these were the first people I met who were thriving after cancer! They made me believe I could do the same.
I volunteer as a FORCE Community Leader and a Peer Navigator. I appreciate the up-to-date, accurate and medically screened information I get from FORCE. I also appreciate the opportunities FORCE gives me to provide hope and support to others at a time when their lives seem turned completely upside down and hope seems far away.