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Tribute in Memory of: Richard Davis
My family currently has 16 out of 19 who have a mutation on our BRCA1 gene. As a breast cancer survivor, I was the first person to test positive in our family. The second and third who tested were my son, Richard, and his sister, Jennifer.
My son, Richard, was one of 5 family members who wanted to attend the very first FORCE Conference in Tampa in 2006. Because FORCE was just beginning to skyrocket to what it is today, there were no sessions at that time for men who had the mutation. As a result, Richard and his cousin, Jeff (also positive) spent time in the lobby area and found themselves in a long conversation with two women who were taking a break. One of those women was Joanna Rudnick, who worked for Kartemquin Productions and was in the process of interviewing people affected by BRCA mutations for the documentary she directed, "In The Family." Joanna found it fascinating that she had found two young men with the BRCA1 mutation and she began to focus on a male's point of view when they discover they have this mutation.
Joanna Rudnick left that FORCE Conference, but not before asking Richard and his cousin, Jeff, if she could meet them at an Irish Pub in Washington, DC, bringing along her film crew, to continue to glean further information from them for her film. Richard told me afterward that the interview went very well and that they had spent nearly 4 hours in the pub having a good time while also providing Joanna with a male's perspective. That was in 2006, and the award winning film debuted at the Silverdoc Film Festival on June 18, 2008.
Unfortunately, my son, Richard, was killed in an accident on March 5, 2007; and as a result, never had an opportunity to see the film. Joanna was contacted by Jeff, Richard's cousin, that he had passed away at age 25. For those who don't know Joanna, she is the epitome of kindness and she was saddened and stunned with the news she received. She immediately took it upon herself to review the entire footage of the interview she had with Richard and mailed it to me as a gift of remembrance. It contained a lot of footage that was not used in the final film.
I will be forever grateful to Joanna for that DVD of Richard's entire interview. Without it, I would have no recording of his voice. Without it, I would never have known how emotionally distraught he was with my own cancer diagnosis, his fear that he would lose his mother, and his concern about his sister's future - who also had the mutation. I also learned through that DVD how concerned Richard was about any success he may have in finding a woman willing to marry him in spite of his BRCA1 mutation and the possibility that he may pass it along to children. Listening to that after he passed away was both touching and heart-breaking.
Losing my son Richard has been the most devastating event I have ever had to face-a lifelong sentence for me. It was also the saddest time in the life of his sister, Jennifer. Together, Jennifer and I have faced an untold life of sadness which we know will always be with us. I will always remember my sensitive, loving son just as he was at age 25, the pride he would have felt at his contribution to the film, his devotion to his family, and his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot in the Navy. He will be forever missed and will remain part of our hearts for the rest of our lives.
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