Heather Fineman, FORCE, Highland Park

Heather Fineman was 35 when her late mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

A sadly familiar diagnosis: Heather’s grandmother had died of cancer at 44 and her great-grandmother at 54. Both Heather and her mother were tested for the BRCA genetic mutation, which is linked to both ovarian and breast cancer. Both tested positive. Heather’s sister, however, tested negative.

Within six months, Heather had a preventive hysterectomy. She later had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

“At that time, there was no local organization to support women and their families dealing with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer,” says Heather. She researched and found FORCE, which stands for Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, and started a local group. It now has over 300 members and holds support meetings for members and their spouses.

In her personal life, Heather’s experience led her to make a major career change. “I was working in sales and marketing for video games and software, but I really wanted to do something more,” she says. Heather now works in patient support for a surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction.

“Because I’ve been through it, I can really understand what the patient is experiencing,” says Heather. “It’s a chance for me to do something more.”

For more information on FORCE, go to facingourrisk.org.


Stylists: Dee Brodlo, Amanda Wolfson and Jenna Wolke, Oak Street Design

Makeup: Nafissa Panahi; Hair: Stevie Harrington and Sadaf Hussain, Red Door Spas, Northbrook Court

Island Imprint Kona dress, $119, Carson necklace, $48, Chico’s

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