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As the mother of two children who inherited my BRCA1 mutation, I had hoped that instead of feeling a sense of doom, they would instead feel a sense of empowerment - a chance to live their lives understanding the meaning of that mutation and going forward by being proactive in their healthcare. They both did so - my son taking great interest in the male perspective in having the mutation and how it may affect his future, and my daughter, Jennifer, being able to begin proactive healthcare with that hereditary risk in mind.
I am proud to say that my son, Richard, did what he could in his short life by taking part in the documentary, "In The Family" and attending the very first FORCE Conference. I am equally proud to say that being a breast cancer survivor myself, my daughter, Jennifer and I began our volunteer activities immediately following that 2006 FORCE Conference in the DC, MD, and VA areas.
We soon were asked to speak on a panel for an audience of journalists from the Association of Healthcare Journalists, a public service announcement about hereditary cancer for the local ABC television station, participation, with Sue Friedman, at the Genetic Alliance Conference as well as Genetics Day On The Hill in an effort to pass the GINA Act (the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) of 2008. Also, Jennifer took part in a family interview by Jon Donvan which aired on ABC’s Nightline. Sue Friedman provided her with the title in 2007, Outreach Liason (before the initiation of Outreach Coordinators), and she was quite proud of her continuing role on behalf of FORCE. We participated with Sue Friedman at the Breast Cancer Symposium in San Antonio, Texas a couple of times, and whenever Sue Friedman asked, Jennifer made herself available for interviews such as with a journalist in London as well as others. She lobbied on Capitol Hill a few times, and she was an invited speaker by the Associate Professor of Oncology at Georgetown University Hospital, Beth Peshkin, on three occasions whose graduate students taking a bioethics class were studying contemporary issues in genetics and society. Jennifer has written many articles for various publications and websites and has been interviewed by every local television station on behalf of FORCE – sometimes more than once.
Jennifer has attended every FORCE Conference since 2007 and volunteered her services wherever needed. She and I represented FORCE at many local cancer-related conferences where her impact on attendees and professionals was clearly profound. She began increased surveillance in 2006, and in 2008, made the brave decision to have bilateral mastectomies and reconstruction at age 23 - making this arrangement at a time when she was a student at George Mason University and shortly thereafter, she was hired by our plastic surgeon (who left Georgetown Hospital to open his own practice) to be his Medical Assistant. With over 60% of his patients affected by breast cancer or facing prophylactic surgery, she was frequently able to assist more effectively those patients affected by a mutation by sharing her FORCE knowledge. She quickly found herself alongside the surgeon in the operating room; and she took part in a televised interview with the surgeon from his office.
Jennifer’s participation on behalf of FORCE has been constant since 2007 and I am proud to have had the opportunity of standing alongside her at so many events for FORCE for so many years. She graduated from George Mason University with both a major and a minor and accomplished that while also facing my cancer diagnosis, treatment and surgeries, her brother’s death, and her own surgery. As her mom, I felt that her bravery and her graduation deserved to be recognized with something special – so together, we traveled to Bora Bora in French Polynesia to take in the amazing beauty while celebrating her accomplishments. This picture was taken there.
I am such a proud mom. I love you, Jennifer.
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