Tribute in Memory of: Gail Halt
My journey began with my own breast cancer diagnosis in December 2003 at age 49. Unfortunately, I didn't have genetic counseling, so I spent the balance of my chemotherapy time learning what I could about the positive result I received reflecting a mutation to my BRCA1 gene. During that time, my son (23) and daughter (19) also tested positive for the mutation. I contacted my older sister and brother and encouraged them to test. We had already lost many members of our family to breast and/or ovarian cancer, so my siblings and I were beginning to piece together the reason behind our family's long history with cancer. My sister tested positive-one son tested positive and the other negative. My brother (Gail Halt's husband) tested positive as well as their older daughter and twin girls who were a bit younger. That meant that my mother who had ovarian cancer twice and died had the mutation, passed it along to all 3 of her children, and we passed it along to 6 out of 7 of our children. I vividly remember finding FORCE and noting they would be holding their fist conference in February 2006 in Tampa. Five of us attended: myself and my son, my sister and her son, and my brother's wife, Gail. Gail wanted to collect any information possible that she could take home and share with my brother and their three daughters. Gail was laser focused on the information she collected and her family's future.
In October 2013, the DC FORCE group played a part in the screening of "Decoding Annie Parker," and as an Outreach Coordinator, I attended with my daughter, my brother's wife, Gail, and one of her twins. At that screening, Gail (who did not have the mutation) advised me that she had been diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. We were all stunned... within my brother's family of five, four of which had the mutation, it was shocking that the one who didn't was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. It took a lot of emotional strength for her to attend that screening in her continuing effort to learn for the benefit of all of our family members.
My daughter and I have never missed a FORCE Conference. In 2014 and 2015, we attended again, and along with us each time was my brother's wife Gail, one of her twins, and my sister.
Even though Gail was, by this time, bald and not feeling well as she progressed through treating continual symptoms as though they were part of a chronic condition, she was still laser focused on her husband and daughters who did have the mutation.
Gail lost her battle with breast cancer on April 4, 2016. The ONLY person in her family of 5 without a BRCA1 mutation. She not only has three daughters, but 6 grandchildren - family was everything to her. She had a remarkably close relationship with her entire family, even though they lived elsewhere.
Following the passing of Gail in 2016, our family made a decision to honor Gail by asking family and friends to donate to FORCE. Her daughters and I felt that Gail would feel strongly that those donations would help FORCE in continuing to fight not just for her husband, daughters' and the rest of the family, but everyone anywhere who had a genetic mutation. We were proud that as a result, over $9,000 was collected in donations to FORCE through the DC chapter.
Our family will never forget Gail and the years she spent educating herself to better serve not just our family, but all people affected by these mutations. We continue to miss the smile she shared until her final days and the strength she showed throughout her own breast cancer journey as well as the support she continually provided her family. She was a beautiful woman inside and out, we loved her dearly, and we will never forget her.
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