Friday, January 28, 2011

What Attending the 2011 Joining FORCE's Conference Can Mean

FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered): About Us

The video about the Joining FORCE's Annual Conference shows so many important reasons to attend. This coming year will be my third time attending.

The first year I went, I really needed the affirmation that I did the correct thing. I had gotten the results of my being BRCA2 positive back in 1996. I had genetic counseling. It is so very important to get that. I was given sort of a road-map to what the future would encompass as far as my BRCA status. My choices were varied: from surveillance to surgery. In 2007, I opted to go the whole 9 yards and have a Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy (PBM). Since I had so many problems along the way with the PBM, I needed to feel that I made the right decision. I had lost the left implant in August of that year and in 2008 I got to go to the Conference. During the intervening time period, I posted on the message boards and in the chat room at FORCE and joined the local Outreach Group.

Quite honestly, I felt pretty beat up! I was cancer-free but feeling very let down by my body. But being surrounded by other women who had traveled the same road gave me my affirmation. I met several women with whom I had only communicated over the Internet or by phone. By taking the time to attend the Conference, I felt the impetus to go back to Philadelphia and get the word out about FORCE and the BRCA Community. I learned more about the genetic mutation that put me and my family at the increased risk. I also got to view the then unreleased movie, "In the Family". Several of us sat in the back of the room and just cried. Joanna Rudnick, the producer and star of the documentary was there and I was so proud of how FORCE helped to make this film a success.

I also met another FORCE member who befriended me was Diane Tropea Greene. She is the author of "Apron Strings: Inheriting Courage, Wisdom and . . . Breast Cancer". She and I "met" on the FORCE message boards and she and one of her sisters attended the Conference and she signed her book. What an inspiration. This is such a good read; you laugh and cry and I found myself nodding my head at so many shared instances in life.

The second year I attended the Conference, it was moved from its original site in Tampa to Orlando, FL. The attendance had grown from about 250 to 500! I felt honored to again be selected to receive a scholarship to attend. I went with one of my close friends who happens to carry the BRCA1 gene mutation and also has had Breast Cancer affect her family. We learned even more at this Conference. The biggest part was growing the Outreach Group in Philadelphia, volunteering opportunities and again, feeling like I belonged to a group that understood my decisions.

At each Conference, there is a "Show and Tell" room, just like we have at most local meetings. Only this years' room was spread into at least 3 rooms. Each woman shows off her mastectomy along with her reconstruction or lack thereof. The year before I had gone there with one implant and one skin flap where the other had been. This time I had a completed set! We shared, showed and commiserated. Other women were given the opportunity to ask questions about different kinds of surgeries, procedures and end products. Not every set was perfect and we wore our scars with pride! It felt kind of strange, walking around with my top off, getting "felt" by other people, and talking honestly and openly about BRCA and my PBM. I almost went downstairs to the main floor of the suite without my t shirt! Good thing I was stopped on the stairs.

Again, I got to meet with others not only from the FORCE website but also from the Facebook pages as well. Sounds trite, but it IS good to put faces to names. I caught up with old friends and met many new ones. I learned some very good points at this Conference, different from the last. Each year there are always new sessions and I tried to attend them. I found out that I like to write and Kathy Steligo, author of "The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook", conducted a very intense session on writing.

One of the highlights of the Conference for me is the Saturday Morning Round Table Discussion. Each speaker has a table, obviously, and makes themselves available for a question and answer session. It is so wonderful to get more in-depth with the most knowledgeable people in their field.

I am hoping to get another scholarship this year and go again. New discussions are waiting! I also am very interested in learning more about fundraising on behalf of FORCE. I do what I can but I know there is so much more. I want to find out about getting FORCE's name and mission out there in the public eye. The BRCA gene mutation is so very misunderstood, by laypeople as well as professionals. If I can change my area of the world, then I feel I have done my part. If I can reach out to just one person and ease their mind about their BRCA status or impending surgery, then I have accomplished more than what I hope.

Love and hugs,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project

The Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project (BCAPP) is an ongoing series designed and created to raise awareness and funds for Breast Cancer causes. Meet the founders and learn more about the project on this episode of ArtStreet! Please check out this video by clicking on the link below:

So far 23 Brave Survivors have stepped forward to be painted and photographed and we are on the way to 50 for the final book.

This Channel will contain "Time Lapse" or "Fast Motion" sequences of most of the survivor models in the project. These videos will show the start to finish process of how these women were body painted for this project to share themselves and their stories.

Hats off to Artist/Photographer Michael Colanero, originally from the Philadelphia area and now living and working in Ft. Lauderdale, has helped to develop this project. He is assisting on raising AWARENESS as well as FUNDS for Breast Cancer. Please visit this worthwhile project at as well as his gallery in Ft. Lauderdale, FL:
2713 East Commercial Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Thank you Michael!

Love and hugs,

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Past Year Review

I have now passed the mark on being 50! Pretty uneventful. Nothing happened to change the world just because one more person is now eligible for AARP. I gained no more wisdom than I had the previous 49 years. I have not written the Great American Novel, hosted a cooking show or found a cure for anything.

Here is what I did glean from my past Half Century and this year:

1. I remember to recite the "Serenity Prayer" when vexed. In the time it takes to say it, I am either no longer at odds or calm enough to deal with it.

2. The speed limit sign on the Garden State Parkway is just a very mild suggestion to NJ motorists.

3. There is no way to stop, alleviate or slow down the aging process. We must grow old gracefully if we can and spend your hard-earned money on helping others if you are so fortunate as to have that kind of income. (My apologies to Dr. B!)

4. PAY IT FORWARD! If someone helped you, please remember to try and do the same for someone else. This does not have to be lauded to the public on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else on the Internet. If you did it, savor the self-knowledge.

5. The phrase my dad loved to use, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig", echoes in my mind at this year's end. In other words, I learned to pick my battles much better. I still make mistakes with this but find it easier to sleep at night.

6. Saying good-bye to friends as they become Angels in our midst is harder than I thought. Two women who bravely fought Cancer have been laid to rest. I remember how they touched my life and impacted it so well. Goodbye Caryn and Janet. You are missed.

7. There is no way to argue with teenagers; refer back to #5!

8. We are all capable of doing great things. As a positive example, I have a friend from high school who participated in the Iron Man event and she did exceptionally well. Another has made a name for himself in the surgical oncology field and has saved countless lives of our fellow alumni and friends. Going above and beyond is admirable to strive towards.

9. I learned how to blog, tweet, use the Nook and NookColor and develop a website!

10. Read a book not in your usual repertoire. Flex those brain cells. Treat them like your muscles; you lose them if you don't use them!

11. Finally, I realized that nobody will make things happen except for YOU. The best advocate is your own voice. NEVER stop being proactive in regard to your health and enrich your life with knowledge. As we say in Judaism, "Be a woman of valor."

As always, I still like to promote FORCE on my blog and will continue to do so. If just one person's life can be made into a longer one, I have served a great purpose and higher purpose. Please share any of the links on the FORCE website with others.

The FORCE website is a wealth of information. This link shares a brief, very clear overview of how our "genes" work. Read on ....Hereditary Cancer and Cancer Genetics

Love and hugs,