Hurricanes are a real FORCE to contend with



I was supposed to be driving to the airport right now, happilly heading toward the 10th Annual Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) conference in Orlando Florida, but, the winds have changed, and Hurricane Matthew has caused the conference to cancel.  This is devestating on many levels, and my heart goes out to all those who have worked so hard to create the conference, and to everyone who is potentially in harms way.

For me, the saddness comes from not having a chance to get away, an occasion I was looking forward to as an expression of celebration for the publication of my book, a chance to share my book with the poplulation that would most benefit from it, a chance to see old friends (Caryn Shmidt we MUST have a roommate raincheck!), and more than anything, a chance to be with a hotel full of people who get what it means to live with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Since I can’t go to the conference I decided it would be fun to share an excerpt from my book that talks about why a FORCE conference is so special to me.

From Life in Asymmetry, Chapter 38 – Headlights:

A FORCE conference is like no other professinoal conference.  While it does offer a full day of reaserch-based presentations, when the sun goes down it becomes ladies’ night.  Jen and I and a few friends started the evening off with a hosted poolside party and then enjoyed a more initimate “Pure Romance” party in someone’s room.  After some great laughs over edible underwear and chocolate flavored lube we felt we were ready to brave the “Show and Tell” room.

It was like the Take Back the Night of breasts – a roomful of women wearing pants on the bottom and nothing but vests cut from paper medical gowns on top, driking wine and eating sushi as they perused a buffet of breast reconstruction options.  Jen and I stayed clothed for a while, getting adjusted to this bizarre world of boobs.  After a little while in the room it felt stranger to be in my clothes than I imagined it would be to take my top off.  So I did.  The experience was terrifying, especially answering questions about my reconstruction while watching the faces of people who came face-to-face to what it looked like for reconstruction to fail.  But in the end, I would say the experience was redemtive and certainly bonding for Jen and me.

When I got back home from the conference, I told Marley (my daughter) about the pedometers we had all been given to make sure were were getting our walking in.  I explained to her that research had found it beneficial for those with a BRCA mutation to use fitness as disease prevention.  Talking a bit more, we came up with a great goal for her.  Recently diagnosed with Celiac disease, Marley was not growing taller, which on her small frame was a challenge.  She was looking for a way to get a bit more exercise in her life and the pedometer was a fun game.  Her goal became to walk 10 percent more steps a day than her baseline 10,000, by her 10th birthday, three months later, and raise money for FORCE while she was at it.  That meant 1,000 more steps a day.

A local reporter caught wind of Marley’s efforts and asked if she would do an interview and photo shoot.  I wasn’t sure how it would go, if I would answer the questions and fill in the data, or if Marley could handle it herself.  Marley stepped right into the interview and told the reporter she had learned about the benefits of getting exercise as prevention even for genetic cancers, and that it sounded like a fun plan to try to walk more and raise money for a cause that was near and dear to her.  It was a wonderful mothering moment when I saw my baby was now a girl, with a great head on her shoulders and a giant geneorus heart at her core. I was beyond the proud mama that day, beaming that this was the way my daughter was facing what lay ahead.  It wasn’t until the reporter asked her if she inherited the gene that I got nervous- not becuase I thought Marley didn’t have the answer but because I knew she did, and that made my stomach quake.

“I have a 50-50 chance,” she repied, with so much hope in her voice, I realized that, while I was scared for her, she was not.  She was facing this head on, and with an outlook of gratitude that her mommy didn’t have breast cancer.

The baton had been passed, and this relayer was coming in strong, head held high, looking toward a bright future.


Life in Asymmetry is available at

2 thoughts on “Hurricanes are a real FORCE to contend with

  1. Caryn S

    Well I just stopped in to purchase your book and reading this blog put a lump in my throat. Nice job raising those girls! Sorry we missed out on this conference. Next time!

  2. Caryn S

    Well I just stopped in to purchase your book and reading this blog put a lump in my throat. Nice job raising those girls! Sorry we missed out on this conference. Until next time…

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