FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered
Irene Rodda Brings New Support to Those Facing Hereditary Risk of Cancer
By: PAMELA HARRIS
As a young girl growing up in the Queens Borough of New York City, Irene
Rodda remembers visiting the graves of her maternal family.
was depressing," she recalls. "They all died before the age of 40." That
stuck with Rodda. She just knew cancer would take her life as it had
her relatives. Then, in 1998, another untimely death hit home.
Literally. Rodda's father was diagnosed with leukemia, and nine months
later he died. Rodda thought her fate was sealed.
But it wasn't
until her mother was diagnosed with early (stage zero) breast cancer in
2008 that Rodda decided to become pro-active with this black cloud that
seemed to be hanging over her family. She opted to get tested for the
BRCA gene, a human gene in a class known as tumor suppressors. The BRCA
gene was named by the scientist who discovered it, Mary Claire King,
PhD. King named it for French pathologist, Paul Broca, who is noted to
be one of the first to recognize breast cancer pedigrees as early as
1866.See it in Film
Parker, premiering this fall, is based on the true story of a woman
similar to Rodda and parallels the life of scientist Dr. Mary Claire
King, depicting her struggles as she discovers the BRCA gene.On To Memphis
tested positive for the BRCA II gene mutation. So for the next several
years, with the knowledge that she had an 84 percent chance of
developing breast cancer, she underwent frequent diagnostic mammograms,
each time experiencing panic and anxiety as she waited for the test
results. She eventually found a support group via the Boston Chapter of
Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, or FORCE. In October, 2012, Rodda
attended the FORCE annual conference which she said was both informative
and empowering. She was inspired by the women she met; some who had
opted for mastectomies and others who had not. This was an experience
that helped her weigh her own options.
Shortly after the
conference, Rodda, her husband and their four-year-old son moved to
Memphis for her husband's new job at Phillips Lighting. Upon
discovering that there was no FORCE chapter in Memphis, Rodda decided to
start one. In addition, she made the life-changing decision to have a
double mastectomy. In January of 2013, well-known breast specialist,
Christine Mroz, MD, performed Rodda's mastectomy. It's been a long
recovery period for Rodda, who underwent a slight set-back last Mother's
Day with emergency surgery due to a complication with the
Rodda says that the choice she made is
not for everyone. "Connecting with FORCE does not mean that you're going
to be pushed toward a mastectomy. Surgery is not the best option for
everybody. It's an individual decision."
Today, Rodda is planning
for the future and is much more relaxed in her post-mastectomy world.
Her breast cancer risk has dropped from 84 percent to less than five
percent. She is passionate about helping other women through the process
via the new FORCE chapter in Memphis. Her hope is to provide regular
support meetings and help others by email and phone as well.
of Genetic Counseling at The West Clinic, Carrie Horton, MS, CGC,
recommends FORCE as a resource for her clients and their families.
genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and
adapt to the medical, psychological, and family implications of
hereditary cancer conditions," said Horton. "During a genetic counseling
appointment, we interpret the family history and provide education on
genetic testing and management of inherited conditions. The goal is to
promote informed decision making and advocate for the client's wishes.
We often use groups like FORCE as a resource for clients and their
families to feel connected to others in similar situations."
Nuccio, MS, CGC, a genetic counselor at Baptist Memorial Health Care
Corporation, also uses FORCE as a resource. "FORCE invites patients with
a hereditary breast cancer syndrome to connect with other men and women
going through the same thoughts, feelings, and decision-making
processes as they are. FORCE is also a major advocacy group that informs
patients about clinical trials, legal issues affecting mutation
carriers, local and national events, and even a gallery of
post-mastectomy and reconstruction photos submitted by members. While we
as healthcare professionals can provide valuable information to
patients and their families, there's nothing like connecting with
another person who's walking through exactly what you are."FORCE Facts
one million people in the United States carry the BRCA gene or other
hereditary factors that puts them at a high risk of cancer.
BRCA gene is more prevalent among those with Eastern European (Ashkenazi
Jewish) heritage. One out of every 40 Jewish people carries a mutation
of the BRCA I or II gene.
Children have a 50 percent chance of inheriting a parent's high cancer risk.
blood test that runs about $500 can determine whether the BRCA mutation
runs in a family. The cost of the test may be covered in part or in
full by insurance.
Women who develop breast cancer before age 50
are more likely to have a BRCA gene mutation than those who develop it
after age 50.How Can You Help?DONATE
Memphis is just getting started so there are many ways to help. They
have a first year goal of raising $5000 to get this chapter going. Your
donations will help make that happen.BUY JEWELRY
October, the Brighton Collectibles shop at Saddle Creek will help the
new FORCE chapter raise money by donating a portion of its sales to
FORCE Memphis.AWARENESS AND EDUCATION
who have patients who may be at a higher risk of cancer due to family
history, should make them aware of BRCA gene mutation testing and the
new FORCE chapter in Memphis.VOLUNTEER
your time or professional skills to this new chapter. Contact Irene
Rodda at (901) 232-5684 or email: HYPERLINK
"mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org"email@example.com. You can
also see Rodda's blog at www.facingyourrisk.org/Memphis.
know of a local non-profit or charitable organization worthy of being
spotlighted in Memphis on the Mend, contact Pamela Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org