Saturday, July 20, 2013

Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered: A FORCE for Good

Earlier this evening, I posted this status update on Facebook:
Happy erev mammoversary to me! Tomorrow is two years since the 12-hour surgery that saved my life...and I wasn't even sick! 
I have no doubt that the surgery—a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy (PBM) with micro-surgical reconstruction using my own abdominal tissue and blood supply—saved me from a diagnosis of breast cancer.  Knowing that I had a pre-surgical lifetime risk of developing the disease that hovered somewhere in the 80th percentile, I wasn’t willing to sit around and wait for the odds to play themselves out.

Although there were many factors that propelled me down the road to surgery (an option that isn’t necessarily the right one for every BRCA-positive woman), I’m not sure I could have taken those first tentative steps without FORCE and the women I’ve met through the New YorkCity chapter of the national organization devoted solely to individuals and families affected by hereditary cancer syndrome, most often because of the presence of a BRCA mutation.   I attended my first FORCE meeting just weeks before the hysterectomy that preceded my mastectomy by about six months.  As wonderful as it was to get some terrific ideas about preparing for surgery, the best part of the gathering was being together for the first time with so many BRCA “sisters,” many of whom were dealing with the same difficult choices and hurdles I’d just had thrown in my own path.

Needless to say, I was hooked, and I’ve hardly missed a local FORCE meeting since.  I’ve also attended the last two annual conferences in Orlando and, most recently, joined another member as a volunteer Outreach Coordinator in New York City.  I believe that if sharing my experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained as a result of being BRCA positive can ease others’ travels, I am fulfilling a part of my obligation to partner with God in repairing our fractured world.

As I’ve noted on this blog before, because FORCE is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization on a shoestring budget, it faces a constant need for funding.  The New York City chapter is in the midst of a fundraising campaign that ends on July 31.  I’m grateful to those of you who have made generous donations to this cause that has become so very important to me and hopeful that others might consider a contribution to this incredible organization that’s been there for me and given me the tools and training to be there for others.  Your support on behalf of FORCE will help ensure that none of us in the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer community ever has to walk this bumpy path alone.