FORCE and the 5th Annual Joining FORCES Conference:
Thursday evening Chad and I walked into a room of practically all women. Completely outnumbered, Chad and I spotted another young pair of individuals and just had to introduce ourselves. That is kind of how this weekend went for Chad. If he saw another young guy, or older one for that matter, he’d say something like:
“Hi. I’m Chad. We are totally outnumbered by estrogen here. I’m here supporting my wife… what about you?”
The couple we first met consisted of a young woman, who claimed to have just turned 40 but looked like she was in her early 30s, and a close friend of hers who, like Chad, was there for moral support. The young lady and I automatically connected and she shared with me her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 32. It was not until after her diagnosis of breast cancer that she found out her BRCA1 status …and she was positive. During remission she went back to school, changed her career and is now a high-risk breast cancer nurse as well as a mother of three. Truly inspirational!
This weekend was full of courageous stories similar to this one at the Joining FORCES conference in Orlando, Florida. This conference hosted and organized by FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), is the only national non-profit association solely devoted to families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. FORCE is near and dear to my heart as they really help women such as my self find the knowledge and power they need to make educated decisions and the conference is only one of many ways they they achieve this.
Finding answers, making connections
The conference hosts top researchers, surgeons and leaders in the BRCA and cancer world and just sitting in a room or going to a session with such individuals was incredible. Chad and I sat in a session with Kathy Steligo of the Breast Reconstruction Book and several sessions on reconstructon options with leading plastic surgeons such as Dr. Andrew Salzberg, and after those sessions Chad and I decided that I will 100% have the one-step surgery. (Now I just need to fin the right surgeon(s) to do it for me.
Also, you truly make amazing connections- women (and some men) come from all over the country, Canada, and abroad so you can meet so many individuals who really know what you are going through. I even was able to meet another fellow blogger, Steph of Good Bye to Boobs, who was also there with her wonderful husband. She has been in the blogging world much longer than myself and putting a face to her blog (and her advice) was amazing!
Showing the love
I mentioned earlier that FORCE is very dear to my heart so when the executive director and founder, Sue Friedman asked me to introduce two sessions as the moderator including Diet and Nutrition and What’s New for Young Previvors, I was so honored! I was a little nervous but my adrenaline got the best of me and I ended up just being more excited than anything else.
On day two I actually facilitated a session for young women with a psychologist in the DC group and fellow DC Outreach coordinator. We had nearly 50 women all under the age of 40 in our session and it could not have gone better. In the room were survivors of cancer, previvors, as well as those considering getting tested. We hit among a variety of topics and each and every woman in the session participated. One topic in particular (which I would like to discuss in future blog entries) was of particular concern for this set of women: Discussing BRCA with family and friends. Being young in hard enough with relationships, starting a career and/or a family. To throw all the BRCA stuff on top of that is extremely difficult and also the fact that many people are unaware and don’t necessary say the right thing to us as we process all of this information and are forced to make decisions to protect our bodies. It was a fascinating conversation and session and I was so humbled to be involved.
How can you help this cause? Only takes 2 minutes…
Force is in a race to win$250,000 from Chase Community Giving and we need YOUR help! It’s free and all it takes is being a member of Facebook, and a vote for Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered as your favorite charity.
A campaign on Facebook called Chase Community Giving is going to be giving away a total of $5 million dollars to be split between 200 charities. The charity with the most votes will receive $250K, 4 runner-ups will receive $100K, and 195 charities will receive $20K.- Please vote for FORCE!
What would FORCE do with the money if they won?
$1,000 delivers the latest in BRCA research and information to 500 families.
$500 gives 60,000 visitors access to their website for one month.
$300 provides a scholarship to FORCE’s annual conference to one person that could not otherwise attend.
$200 provides life-saving information to 100 people through their newsletter.
$100 provides phone-based support and resources via the Helpline for one month.
$50 provides a package of informational brochures to doctor’s offices and hospitals.
If you have ever been affected by breast or ovarian cancer, or no someone who has…you should vote. It really only takes a couple minutes and as you can see above, $250,000 will go a long way.