FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered

If you’re reading this, you probably know that Firefly Sisterhood’s vision is to ensure that no woman faces a breast cancer diagnosis alone. It is for this reason that we connect women recently diagnosed and inspirational survivors to provide support, guidance, and hope. A national organization called FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, was founded in 1999 on the principle that no one should face hereditary cancer alone, specifically breast, ovarian, and related cancers. Firefly is proud to work with FORCE to connect women who reach out to us and may benefit from all that FORCE has to offer.

Sandy Cohen, Senior Vice President of Volunteer Programs at FORCE, became involved with the organization for personal reasons. From a very young age, Sandy heard a lot about breast cancer, as both her grandmother and mother faced the disease. Aware that there was a family link but unsure of what it really meant for her, Sandy waited 10 years until after her mother passed away from the disease before she underwent genetic testing. When she learned that she carried the BRCA1 mutation, Sandy turned to FORCE. “I made sure I didn’t feel alone. It was so important to know that others were going through this, too.”

With a mission to improve the lives of individuals affected by breast, ovarian, and related hereditary cancers, FORCE offers a tremendous amount of support for individuals. A visit to their comprehensive website provides links to the following: hereditary cancer information, the latest on research and clinical trials, ways to become involved, how to get support, and information on advocacy. For those seeking personal connection, FORCE has outreach and support groups in cities across the United States, including a particularly active one in the Twin Cities metro. Within the organization’s Peer Navigation Program, trained volunteers who have shared a similar experience offer a one-to-one connection via email and telephone to provide guidance and empowerment.

As a younger woman facing hereditary breast cancer, Pam Hennen learned about FORCE from her genetic counselor. She reached out to the Twin Cities’ local support group and appreciated finding many similarities among the women, particularly the age range. Pam’s been a member of FORCE for four years and a facilitator for the local support group for two. “I appreciate the opportunity to impact women at a really difficult time in their lives,” Pam says. She emphasizes that the group is comprised of both previvors (individuals who are survivors of a predisposition to cancer but haven’t had the disease, including people who carry a hereditary mutation, family history of cancer, or other predisposing factor) and survivors. The group meets about every other month and usually has about 15 or so in attendance. In addition to her work with FORCE, Pam is a Guide for Firefly Sisterhood, having attended one of our earliest trainings. Her willingness to offer her experience as a hereditary breast cancer survivor to other women involved in both of these organizations is a testament to her belief in the power of support and connection!

Both Pam and Sandy talk about the importance of providing information. “There’s so much new research coming out, and we really need women to learn about clinical trials going on,” says Sandy. “We’re growing as an organization because more people have access to genetic testing, and they’re reaching out because they’re confused.” FORCE is available to offer a wealth of much-needed information and support.

To learn more about FORCE’s national organization, Sandy would love to hear from you. Please contact her at sandrac@facingourrisk.org. To learn more about the Minnesota Network for FORCE, contact Pam Hennen: pamh@facingourrisk.org. She’d be happy to talk! The next local gathering is November 2nd, in St. Louis Park.

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