Basking in the energy of another successful conference, it’s always rewarding to share the highlights (once we have a chance to catch our breath). This year’s conference (our sixth!) brought together 530 survivors, previvors, health care providers, researchers, and advocates. They traveled from most U.S. states and 11 countries—including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Chile, and Colombia—to hear top experts present the latest information about HBOC. We were able to award 75 scholarships to recipients who would not otherwise have been able to attend.
The energy during our standing-room-only Welcome address was palpable. I outlined all the conference opportunities to ensure that attendees made the most of their conference experience. Dr. Johnathan Lancaster of Moffitt Cancer Center presented on the state of hereditary cancer research. Conference co-course directors Drs. Laronga and Sutphen welcomed everyone, and Barbara Pfeiffer shared the exciting growth at FORCE. Dr. Karen Hurley, a staunch FORCE supporter and conference favorite, provided a balanced perspective and “a goodie bag of tools” for attendees to gather and process information without becoming overwhelmed.
Sixty speakers presented at 42 sessions, making this conference the most information-rich of any of our previous annual events. The many sessions and workshops covered every aspect of hereditary cancer, from the latest research studies to early detection and dealing with the emotional challenges accompanying HBOC. It was an exceptional opportunity to gather information and resources to make decisions and cope with the many ways that cancer affects our lives. Conference evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive and reflect the importance of this event.
Attendees also had an opportunity to enroll in hereditary cancer research. Our exhibit hall featured 42 exhibitors sharing information and selling items from purses, flip-flops and jewelry to t-shirts and rub-on nipple tattoos.
After-hour events were for friends and fun. Our informal meet-and-greet reception helped new attendees meet FORCE Outreach Coordinators and conference veterans, while receiving support and advice for getting the most out of the conference. Over 200 people attended our dessert and wine welcome reception—by all accounts the crème brûlée earned high marks. In our Show & Tell room, women courageously shared their mastectomy results and plastic surgery experts consulted with women who are considering surgery with or without reconstruction. Spouses in attendance shared their advice and coping strategies for the journey. Fitness bootcamp provided participants with an outlet to work up a sweat and burn calories. And our gene pool party was just what the doctors ordered. We let our hair down and hot-tubbed the night away.
One of my favorite moments was presenting our Spirit of Empowerment Awards, honoring those who have worked with us to make the lives of our community members better. I will be sharing the words of some of the recipients in my next few blogs.
If you were unable to attend, stay tuned. Our next print newsletter will feature reviews of several conference sessions, and videotapes of some sessions will be available on our website.