Spotlight on: FORCE

FORCE logo Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) is the nation’s only nonprofit organization dedicated to families facing hereditary breast, ovarian and related cancers. Since 1999, this organization has been the voice of experience and has empowered cancer survivors and those at high risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. FORCE provides support, education and awareness to help those facing these diseases know their options and make informed decisions. It has also taken a leadership role in guiding critical research and policy issues that impact the hereditary cancer community.

From June 18th to 20th, FORCE held its ninth annual “Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer” conference in Philadelphia.BFFL Co held an essay contest, and awarded the winner two tickets to the conference. The tickets went to Michaela, a teacher who found out ten years ago that she is BRCA1 positive and has since made the difficult decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. Michaela and her husband attended the conference and found it extremely informative and helpful. Here’s what she wrote to us:

Caitlin and Michaela

Michaela and BFFL Co’s Caitlin Lopez

I feel very lucky that my husband and I were able to attend the FORCE conference, and we’re very grateful to BFFL Co for the tickets. We gathered a lot of information in just a few days and we now feel very up-to-date on BRCA issues.

On the first day, we attended all sessions that had to do with mastectomies. The first speaker was Dr. Ashikari. I really enjoyed listening to his presentation as I have been on the fence as to whether or not to choose a nipple-sparing procedure. I walked away from this session truly understanding the options and issues surrounding this procedure. One of the afternoon sessions I attended was a question and answer panel regarding breast reconstruction. Each surgeon on the panel provided a brief synopsis of what type of surgery they perform. This helped me narrow down my options (I had no idea how many there were) and it was great to have the opportunity to ask my own questions.

On Saturday, the most helpful presentation for me was on ovarian cancer prevention and detection. It was very hopeful to hear that just having my fallopian tubes removed now and then waiting a few years to have a hysterectomy might be a good option for me. I don’t feel ready to enter menopause but also don’t feel very confident in my ovarian cancer screening results. I intend to make an appointment with my oncologist to discuss this.

I feel like I need time to process all that I heard and learned during that weekend in Philadelphia. My upcoming appointments with both my breast surgeon and oncologist will help to answer any additional questions. I have been grappling with the issue as to when it would be best for me to undergo the surgery and, after hearing all the information presented at the FORCE conference, I now intend to have the surgery in June of 2016. My hope is that, in October of next year, I will be healthy and have my preventative double mastectomy behind me.

Visit the FORCE website to find out about groups and events near you as well as to access other information and resources.

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