Taking a break in between activities at the FORCE conference. Time to put some thoughts down on paper. It’s been an inspiring experience with a bit of sadness too. There are 500 people here—some are healthcare providers but most of the 500 are women with a BRCA mutation or women who are at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. It’s unbelievable to hear everyone’s stories, their lives and their histories.
Last night, I met two women in their 20s here with their mother. Both women found out this past January that they carry the BRCA mutation. Now they are exploring surgery options. I can’t help but think of my own daughter when I look at these two young women and wonder where we’ll be in 15 years. I admire these women for their energy, spirit and acceptance of the genetic mutation. And I’m guessing that FORCE is helping them realize they are not alone and they do have options. That is the truly magical part of FORCE. There are so many women who’ve walked incredibly journeys— losing parents, grandmothers and siblings to cancer. And taking preventative measures like prophylactic surgeries so that they will be able to see their own children grow up.
I spent a little time walking around downtown Disney, humming to the tunes and watching families enjoy Disney. It was nice to leave the hotel for a bit to have some time to think and regroup. There’s no place like Disney to help you clear your head.
After my walk, I checked out the exhibit hall. There are wonderful speakers and exhibitors here sharing their knowledge and advice to show women they have options. Yesterday I had lunch with Informed Medical decisions, a company that provides genetic counseling over the phone. What a great resource if you live in a area that doesn’t have a genetics counselor or if your genetics counselor is booked for several months.
I also had the opportunity to meet a really energetic woman with da Vinci Surgery. That’s the name of the robot they used for my hysterectomy and oophrectomy. Quite honestly, I didn’t know much about how the machine worked.
And how about this research study on whether or not exercise can reduce your breast cancer risk. If you’re high risk and under 40, you can qualify. And you get a free treadmill out of the deal. The study is coming out of the University of Pennsylvania and I met the researcher behind it who inspired me to go hop on the treadmill for a little afternoon exercise. So now I’m off to find some dinner. And later to the show and tell room where I get to share my breasts with lots of other women. More tomorrow!
One year ago today, I started another journey. My life as a patient came to a close, and my life as a breast cancer mentor, advocate, and fundraiser was kicked into high gear. Yes, a year ago today was my final breast surgery. Once again, it’s hard to believe another year has passed. And what a year. Tomorrow I will venture to Orlando for the annual FORCE conference. I can’t wait to meet many of the people I’ve communicated with over the course of the year. I’m looking forward to learning more and taking in everything the conference has to offer. I know it will be an exciting and educational weekend. I know there is so much work going on in the area of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, but yet there is so much left to do.
The top experts will be there, so if you can’t make it to the conference but have a specific question on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, post it here. I’ll try and get some good answers to share next week.