Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer

Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer® is an international conference designed by and for people and families affected by hereditary cancer or a BRCA mutation.

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Spirit of Empowerment
Awards 2016-17

Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) presents its annual Spirit of Empowerment awards to recognize the contributions of individuals and organizations that help us educate and support the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer community.

Advocacy: National Society of Genetic Counselors

The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) is the leading voice, authority, and advocate for the genetic counseling profession. Representing more than 3,000 health professionals, the NSGC is committed to advancing the various roles of genetic counselors in health care by fostering education, research, and public policy to ensure the availability of quality genetic services. Genetic counselors empower patients and their families with information, provide guidance and emotional support to help them understand their family history, evaluate genetic testing options, and make informed decisions based on test results. Genetic counselors work in many areas of medicine, including cancer, prenatal, pediatric, and adult.  In addition, some genetic counselors work outside clinical practice in research, education, public health, and industry settings. While their roles may vary, all genetic counselors have influence to help patients and families understand complex issues and support their emotional needs. For more information, or to find a genetic counselor near you, visit

Individual Commitment: Jen and Glenn Cole

Jen and Glenn have been active Los Angeles FORCE members for many years. From first-hand experience as both a couple and a family, they understand that the support FORCE offers is critically important. They believe that FORCE support helps people and families feel part of a community, giving them access to educational resources, and providing the emotional support necessary for the life-altering decisions that survivors and previvors often have to make. Their generosity has enabled FORCE to take its support services to the next level. With the help of Jen and Glenn, FORCE established the new Peer Navigation Program, providing 1:1 personalized support and expert-reviewed materials to individuals and families who need them. Jen and Glenn ensure that no one travels their hereditary cancer journey alone.

Media: Alan Blassberg

Alan Blassberg is a Producer/Director whose work includes projects such the A&E series “Biography” and “Investigative Reports,” and reality programming including “Temptation Island” and “Wedding Day,” a series for Mark Burnett and Dreamworks. In 2004, Alan launched First Prize Productions, and worked on projects including “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins,” featuring the renowned self-help authority.

“Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer” is Alan’s feature documentary directorial debut. The film is an emotional journey that shares the lives of women—and men—dealing with genetic mutations and their related hereditary cancers.  Since its release in October 2015, the film has screened throughout the United States and internationally, from Montreal to London at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema. The film won best documentary at the Women’s Independent Film Festival.

Research: Judy Garber

Dr. Garber is the Director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She conducts research in clinical cancer genetics, with a special focus in the genetics of breast cancer. Dr. Garber has played a major role in the development of national guidelines in cancer genetics. She is also a leader in research into the characteristics and treatment of triple-negative or basal-like breast cancer, the most common form in women with BRCA1 mutations. Her translational research focuses on the evaluation of novel agents targeting DNA repair defects in breast cancer, including PARP inhibitors for treatment and prevention of breast cancer and other BRCA-associated cancers.

Dr. Garber is a past President of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the world’s largest organization of cancer researchers. She is also a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board and the National Academy of Medicine.

Corporate: BFFL Co

Founded in 2011 by Dr. Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, BFFL Co (“Best Friends for Life”), provides a wide range of unique products that help patients recover in comfort and with dignity from surgery and other medical treatments. The company’s flagship product, the Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra®, features patent pending technology and is the most comfortable surgical bra on the market today. It is used by hundreds of doctors and hospitals across the country. BFFL Co also provides Breast and GYN/Ovarian BFFLBags®. The company is committed to improving the patient experience and donates 15% of proceeds to charity.

Individual Commitment: Linee Zajic

Linee Zajic has been a FORCE active member and volunteer since 2005. Throughout the years, she has helped to develop FORCE’s telephone helpline and the Show & Tell event at the annual Joining FORCEs conference. A past Western Region Outreach Volunteer Director, she established a Los Angeles Outreach Group in response to a post on the FORCE message board asking if, “anyone in the Los Angeles area wanted to get together for dinner.” Linee has grown the L.A. group from just 4 members to over 600 during the last 11 years. In addition, Linee and her group spearheaded numerous fundraising events, bringing in over $60,000 to help FORCE continue our important work.

Individual Commitment: Brandi Forbes

Brandi Forbes is a BRCA2 mutation carrier who found FORCE in 2009 while planning her risk-reducing mastectomy at age 23. With a desire to ensure that no one feels alone in their BRCA journey, Brandi began volunteering with FORCE, first as a Peer Support Group Leader for the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, and then as a FRAT Advocate. She currently volunteers as a Peer Navigator. Brandi is a frequent “go-to” for the young, high-risk community. She facilitates support meetings, serves on advisory panels and helps to maintain and manage the FORCE message board. Earlier this year, Brandi presented on the psychosocial impact of HBOC in young BRCA mutation carriers on behalf of FORCE at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Annual Meeting, as part of the elite Scientist↔Survivor Program. Having found her passion volunteering at FORCE, Brandi is committed to patient advocacy and making a difference to individuals and families affected by hereditary cancer.

2015 Recipients

  • Research: Dr. Alan Ashworth
  • Individual Commitment: Tara Freundlich
  • Advocacy: Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
  • Advocacy: Amy Cohen Epstein
  • Advocacy: Lisa Cohen

2014 Recipients

  • Arts & Media: Stacey Sager
  • Arts & Media: Kara DioGuardi
  • Arts & Media: Annie Parker
  • Individual Commitment: Kate Downey Berges
  • Indivdual Commitment: Karen Hurley, PhD
  • Corporate Committment: Sisco + Berluti
  • Research: Mark H. Greene, MD

2012 Recipients

  • Advocacy: Sharon Terry, President and CEO of the Genetic Alliance
  • Advocacy: American Civil Liberties Union organized the successful challenge of Myriad's gene patents.
  • Arts & Media: Dina Roth Port, award-winning freelance writer, journalist, and author.
  • Arts & Media: Joi Morris, author of Positive Results.
  • Individual Commitment: The Byer Family
  • Research: Steven Narod, MD, Tier I Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer and a senior scientist at Women's College Research Institute.

2011 Recipients

  • Arts & Media: Kathy Steligo, author of the Breast Reconstruction Guidebook, and editor of Joining FORCEs newsletter.
  • Advocacy: Komen for the Cure, for the impact of their advocacy work on the lives of people facing hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Advocacy: Ellen Matloff, MS, genetic counselor and director of Yale Cancer Center Genetic Counseling Program and plaintiff in the ACLU patent lawsuit.
  • Corporate Commitment: Tiny Little T Shirt Company
  • Individual Commitment: Dara & Molly Marias & Myron Caplan, The Butterfly Project
  • Research: Dr. Francis Collins

2010 Recipients

The inaugural Spirit of Empowerment awards were presented at the 5th Annual Joining FORCEs Conference in Orlando, FL. Recipients for the inaugural award were:

  • Arts & Media: Joanna Rudnick, Producer & Director, In the Family
  • Research:  Timothy R. Rebbeck, Ph.D., Cancer Center Genetics, Epidemiology and Risk Reduction Program at Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA
  • Advocacy: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
  • Corporate Commitment: Enell, Inc.
  • Individual Commitment: Michael Sosin

FORCE:Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered