I remember my very first conference for Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE).
Wait, take that back.
I remember not wanting to go to my very first Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered conference.
My sisters and I had just found out we were BRCA+ and Grace, the diligent journalist, writer, and researcher, wanted to find out everything — and I mean, everything — about being BRCA+. I had accompanied her to Florida, the site of the conference, but I spent more time by the pool than talking about cancer. I wasn’t interested in it. I wasn’t interested in learning. I wasn’t interested in facing my own risks.
Grace would give me the daily update. Words that are now a part of my vocabulary (prophylactic, mastectomy, chemoprevention) went in one ear and out the other back then. I just didn’t want to know.
Two years later, I returned to the FORCE Conference — this time, willingly — to learn about how to reduce my risk of hereditary cancer.
“Oh, you’re Liza? Like “Marathon B4 Mastectomy Liza? I read your blog all the time!”
“Hey! You’re Liza — the running Liza!”
Two years later, it was hard to go undetected at the conference. My face was now on the FORCE brochure and on the 10′ stand up posters at the entry way. I was open about being BRCA+. And, as I sat behind a woman at one of the sessions, I got a flash of her wrist tattoo. It was a pink ribbon.
Eight months later, I, too, would sport a wrist tattoo of a pink and teal ribbon with the words “Brave” etched above.
As I have gotten further away from the shock of my mastectomy, some of these memories have faded. My scars across my chest have become a part of me. The familiar tug of my implants feel normal. Even the numbness is comforting.
Yet, the impact of FORCE has not been lost. It was a place I went when I was scared, lonely, and frightened. It was the place I went in the days after my surgery to ask questions about changing my bandages, stripping my JP drains, and exploring physical therapy.
It is the place I will return to once I decide that “Marathon B4 (surgical) Menopause” must happen sooner than later. When I feel frightened about ovarian cancer, when I feel nervous about the effects, or when I just want to be in a community of people who understand the fear, I go to FORCE.
As many folks have read this blog, and I am thankful for the many who have written to me about how this blog has changed your own lives, I ask that you take a moment to donate a few dollars to FORCE. They are at a risk of losing funding for their support services. And, people, like me, are at risk of losing the kinds of empowering programs they offer.
If you have ever been inspired by something I have written, cried at a some of the pain, laughed at some of the absurdity, or even just peeked in to learn more about what goes on in the life of a BRCA+ person, please know that I owe it all to FORCE.
They have given me the tools to face the risk of my genetic cancer empowered.
With peace, love and a few dollars and smiles to spare,