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I never knew my grandmother. She passed away from breast cancer at 34 when my mom was two. Ovarian cancer took the lives of my great aunt at age 42 and her mother at age 49. I grew up knowing that cancer was in my family and after watching Brian’s Song when I was young, I began to understand what cancer was and the heartache it involved. My mother was in her early 50’s when she was diagnosed with stage IIIC fallopian tube cancer. She underwent a hysterectomy and chemotherapy treatments and is now 76 and cancer-free! My youngest sister was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at 40, ten years ago and is cancer-free! That’s when genetic testing began in our family. All three of us girls tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, along with our mother and one of our aunts. Later, my daughter tested negative.
I was actually shocked that I carried the genetic mutation. Since everyone else tested positive, I figured the odds were pretty good that I probably wouldn’t. The genetic counselor at the time handed me a piece of paper with information about FORCE. She thought I may find it helpful to reach out to them, and boy did I ever! I reviewed FORCE’s website, attended meetings and their conference for information. I was astonished at how many people carry this and other hereditary gene mutations. And I was astounded at the lack of knowledge from doctors and the general population. I wanted to help spread the word so I became a FORCE volunteer. If just one person learns about these mutations and the options to reduce cancer risk, then I have served my purpose.
Receiving notes of thank-you from those we have helped along the way confirms that together, we are making a difference. Thank you FORCE, for providing the power and ever-expanding knowledge to each and every one of us who is ready to receive it.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 at the age of 26 years old. At that time, we weren’t yet aware of gene mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2. While I received a great deal of support, I wasn’t able to connect with other young women who were in a similar situation. My family members also had difficulty finding others who could relate to their concerns. We had so many unanswered questions including: Why did I get breast cancer at such an early age? We questioned what we might have done “wrong”. Did I drink too much Tab, not eat enough broccoli or expose myself to chemicals? How should my personality change to reduce the likelihood of recurrence? In 1999, when diagnosed again with breast cancer, I underwent genetic testing that found my BRCA1 gene mutation. This testing was extremely helpful in answering many of our questions, but also prompted new questions about how this diagnosis might impact the rest of our family.
When I learned about FORCE from a friend who also has the BRCA gene mutation, I recognized that many other people and their families shared our experiences and concerns. We could relate to the impact that living with hereditary cancer has on so many aspects of our lives. I was excited to be able to join a group that offers all of the benefits my family and I could have hoped for when I was first diagnosed including support, education about treatment options and current research. I am happy to be part of an organization that advocates for improving the quality of life for future generations.