We often refer to sports icons as heroes, but a true hero isn’t an individual who scores points; it’s someone who gives selflessly and even sacrifices to benefit others. Sue Friedman, founder and Executive Director of FORCE, is such a hero.
I've had the privilege of working with Sue for the past six years and am honored to share her story and name her a HERO for the entire community.
At age 33, Sue enjoyed a full and wonderful life with a new child, a new home, and a veterinary practice that fulfilled her childhood dream of helping animals. Then, just as she and her husband were trying to expand their family, Sue was diagnosed “out-of-the-blue” with breast cancer.
Although she was eventually treated successfully, her medical care included several missteps: after a unilateral mastectomy, her cancer recurred and spread to her lymph nodes, requiring the loss of her remaining breast and extensive chemotherapy after she was advised that she had been “cured.” Sue’s medical team also made another significant error that would forever change her life: they failed to recognize that she had several red flags for a hereditary syndrome, a fact that she later learned not from her doctors, but from a magazine article. After her cancer recurred, she realized that she would need to be more proactive. She educated herself in order to receive appropriate medical care.
During treatment for her recurrence, Sue insisted on a referral for genetic counseling and testing and learned she inherited a BRCA 2 mutation. After her treatment, she resolved that no one else should face hereditary cancer without guidance and support.
On New Years Day, 1999, she founded FORCE as a nonprofit and enduring resource for women and families facing hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. FORCE grew larger and stronger, demanding more and more of Sue’s time and energy. Others may have given up at that point, choosing a more self-indulgent path; but with conviction and tenacity, Sue sacrificed her career, her personal and family time to advocate loudly and passionately for awareness, research, and policy improvements through FORCE so that individuals and families who face hereditary cancer have a voice, an identity, a caring supportive community.
A pioneer and trailblazer for the hereditary cancer community, Sue continues to exemplify the term “hero” with her unparalleled leadership and tireless pursuit of reform, research and advances on behalf of our community.
Please consider making a donation to honor Sue’s energy and passion, and to help continue her important work from which so many of us have benefitted.