With more than two decades of leadership as the largest national nonprofit organization focused solely on hereditary breast, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate and related cancers, FORCE stands apart.
Created for individuals and families with hereditary cancer mutations who are at a high cancer risk, Sue Friedman founded FORCE in 1999 on the principle that no one should face a higher risk of genetic-related cancer alone.
FORCE has played an important role in the development of research studies for the high-risk community. We have contributed to every therapy available today. While we are proud of our progress, the community is growing rapidly. Constituent needs are growing and FORCE is being called on to do more. We invite you to join us in helping save more lives.
We invite you to join our efforts by becoming a FORCE Leadership Supporter.
FORCE Leadership Supporters are individuals who have given or pledged – personally or through a family foundation - a non-event, non-fundraiser gift of $5,000 or more during the calendar year.
Donors interested in becoming a FORCE Leadership Supporter or desiring more information can contact Ruth Kucharz, Vice President of Development at RuthK@FacingOurRisk.Org or (866) 288-7475 x 705.
FORCE Leadership Supporters consist of individuals who have given or pledged – personally or through a family foundation - a non-event, non-fundraiser gift of $5,000 or more during the calendar year.
FORCE Leadership Supporters fulfill a critical need for financial support for our growing hereditary cancer community. You will receive enhanced, priority access to FORCE’s most important mission-critical activities.
The Downey Sisters' Fund for BRCA Mutation Awareness and Education was established by Phebe and Frederick Downey, to honor their daughters:
Ann Downey Little • Margaret Downey Hardy • Katherine Downey Berges • Martha Downey Lemp
The fund is being used to educate the public and the medical community about the genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
"Learning to Dance in the Rain"
The Downey Sisters' Story
In the spring of 2009, the Downeys learned about their family BRCA mutation from a paternal second cousin, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently underwent genetic testing. With this new information about the paternal connection, Fred Downey first, and then his daughters Ann Little, Meg Hardy, Kate Berges and Marti Lemp, were each tested. Shockingly, all five learned they were positive for the BRCA mutation, and within three months Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer and Marti with fallopian tube/ovarian cancer.
Over the next year, Ann and Martha underwent chemotherapy, and then with Meg and Kate, all four made the agonizing choice to undergo the multiple recommended prophylactic surgeries. Having consulted broadly, questioning, listening, and learning as much as they possibly could, they each reached the conclusion that the only option was to have the recommended surgeries. There was some comfort in knowing that the sisters were going through this together; there was also much painful deliberation and loving support from family and friends. But ultimately these were very difficult, individual, emotional decisions faced by each of them.
For more than a year their surgeries permeated their lives and those of their families. There were many difficult days, painful decisions, side effects to consider, trips to take, medications to endure, doctors to see, jobs to maintain, etc. This was a long painful journey, but it was also the year they began to embrace a new approach: Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain. And so they 'danced'!
The sisters, all now in their 50s, are healthy, have resumed their active family and professional lives, and are surrounded by people who love them. They, their parents, and their families have responded with courage and compassion — and a remarkable commitment to helping and educating others affected by hereditary cancer, hoping to save lives. Phebe and Frederick Downey, to honor their daughters, established the Downey Sisters' Fund for BRCA Mutation Awareness and Education in 2009. It continues to be used to educate both the public and the medical community about the genetic risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
Jan Finer was a member of FORCE, and a volunteer coordinator for our Tampa Bay Outreach Network. Jan believed that information about cancer genetics can be empowering and life-saving. She worked tirelessly to raise awareness about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, even while she was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer. Tragically, Jan died at age 49 of ovarian cancer.
We have created the Jan Finer Memorial Fund in Jan's memory. Donations to FORCE are tax-deductible. 100% of the fund donations will go towards providing lifesaving education and outreach focused on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
To donate via check, please put Jan Finer in the memo field, make check payable to FORCE and mail to: FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, 16057 Tampa Palms Bvd., W, Tampa, FL 33647.
These programs were paid for in part or fully by the Jan Finer Memorial Fund
Linda Pedraza was a member of the FORCE Board of Directors and a staunch patient advocate for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. She survived ovarian cancer, only to succumb at age 45 of breast cancer.
We have created the Linda Pedraza Memorial Scholarship Fund in Linda's name to honor her memory. Donations to FORCE are tax-deductible. 100% of the fund donations will go to provide financial support to people who cannot afford to attend our national conference.
Many companies will also match donations made by their employees. Please ask your employer if your company has a matching gifts policy.
To donate via check, please put Linda Pedraza in the memo field, make check payable to FORCE and mail to: FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, 16057 Tampa Palms Bvd., W, Tampa, FL 33647.
The Amy Winter Memorial Fund was created by Amy's two daughters, Amanda Tiseo and Allison Winter to create awareness around hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
For as long as we can remember, our life has been defined by cancer. We thought it was hard when cancer was first introduced to us; when our mother's sister was diagnosed with breast cancer back in the early 1990's. She fought for almost 12 years before it took her life in April of 2004. Over those years, breast cancer turned into ovarian cancer. All her treatments eventually caused her to get leukemia which is what actually took her life.
Her oncologist realized the link between breast and ovarian cancer and sent her to a genetic counselor to be tested for hereditary cancer. She was the first in our family to be tested and she was positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation. Needless to say, her children and her siblings were the next to be tested. Our mother was included in this, and she too was positive for the BRCA1 mutation. This is where our life started to be about the fight against cancer and what we can do to even save one person from experiencing the effects of cancer on a family.
In Spring of 2003, is when our mother found out she was positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation and the same month found out she had breast cancer. She had both breasts removed, a hysterectomy, and her ovaries out. After that, the cancer was gone...for now. After her sister/our aunts passing in April of 2004, we made the decision that we would get tested for the BRCA1 mutation, given we had a 50% chance. We will never forget that moment; the geneticist came in the room and gave us the news that we were both positive for the BRCA1 mutation. We made a decision right then and there that we would use this extremely useful information to begin living our lives in prevention mode and not view it as a death sentence. We vowed we would do whatever it took to beat the odds. Our mother continued to battle another round of breast cancer in her opposite breast. She went through chemotherapy and was in remission again...for now. Cancer reared its ugly head again in the early months of 2006. It had spread to her brain. The initial prognosis was 3 months. She went through whole brain radiation for 2 straight weeks, which is the most one person can have in their entire lifetime. We went to numerous specialists throughout the country to see what options we had. After the radiation treatments, she continued with chemo for months. The 40 spots in her brain shrunk in half, and eventually shrunk to only a few and they were significantly smaller. We thought we had witnessed a miracle.
The Summer of 2007 would start us on our journey to help cure cancer...or at least try to prevent it. In August of 2007 our mother knew something wasn't right. She wanted to make one last vacation with her family over Labor Day Weekend. She packed her things and went on a week vacation with her siblings and their spouses. She had to cut the trip short when her body was in so much pain she couldn't move. She arrived home and our dad took her directly to the ER. She was admitted to the hospital. This would be her final stay. The cancer had spread to her bones. She was in the hospital for 3 weeks when we received a phone call from our father that we needed to get there as soon as humanly possible. She had slipped into a coma and would be moved to a hospice the next morning, a Thursday. She moved to hospice and passed away that Monday at age 50. Those last 5 days of her life changed us forever. Watching her take her final breath was the single most profound event in our life.
Since that moment, we made a promise to her that we would do whatever it took to prevent a family from experiencing what we had gone through and to keep fighting. Over the next couple years, we pushed and motivated our family to join us in this journey. The 2 of us, being carriers of the BRCA1 genetic mutation, have everything to gain from the amazing work of FORCE. Without a cure for cancer, we have up to an 87% chance of getting breast cancer in our lifetime and roughly 40% chance of getting ovarian cancer. We know the options that are out there, but the only thing that will really save us one day is a cure.
In November 2012, Amanda underwent a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction surgery to reduce her chances of breast cancer. In the years to come, an oophorectomy and hysterectomy are the plan of attack. Allison also plans on this course of preventative action in her future.
Please help us on our journey to help find a cure; donate to the Amy Winter Memorial Fund. You are not only helping keep the memory of our mother alive, but also helping the both of us for our health in the future.
Thank you for your support!
Amanda Tiseo & Allison Winter
The Elise Shapira Memorial Fund was created in 2013 by members of Elise’s Family. This fund provides scholarship dollars to attendees at our conference and supports the mission of FORCE.
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40, shortly after her own mother's diagnosis, Elise Shapira made what seemed a radical decision to many at the time (more than 20 years ago now) opting for bilateral mastectomy with TRAM flap reconstruction, a decision quickly validated by the pathology, having found cancerous cells in the second breast as well. Throughout the difficult recovery and beyond, and along with her husband Ira, Elise did everything in her power to provide the most normal home life possible for her two children, Billy and Rachel. Cancer was not avoided, but it was never the focus of life in the Shapira household.
In 2001, after roughly 10 years cancer free, Elise would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, immediately undergoing oophorectomy which would be followed by chemotherapy. Following her recovery Elise would find that she carried a BRCA-1 mutation, a discovery that would eventually lead her to FORCE. The inspiration that she received (and no doubt provided) from speaking with other BRCA women was transformative both for Elise and for her entire family, many of whom attended not only the local Chicago meetings, but the National Conference as well.
Over the 10 years that would follow her diagnosis, though never out of chemotherapy for more than a year, Elise was rarely slowed. She continued to travel, visiting Europe, Aruba, California and Baltimore in 2010 and 2011. Elise passed away in October of 2011, but she leaves behind a legacy of inspiration, not for living with cancer, but simply for living.
Elise redefined normal for herself and for anyone living with this disease; she never hid from it, she simply didn't allow it to limit her.
To read more about Elise and the Fund created, please click here.
Lori Haber Buckfire was born in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Art. Lori lived in Los Angeles for ten years before returning to Michigan to start a family Lori was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer in May, 2005, eight weeks after giving birth to her son Hayden. This fund was created in the memory of Lori Haber Buckfire, who passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 41.
Despite her long battle with cancer, Lori did not let her illness diminish her zest for life or her ability to live in the moment. She gave numerous speeches, raised money and awareness for the fight against cancer, and counseled many others who also were battling cancer. Lori rarely felt sorry for herself. Each struggle filled with pain and fear was answered by joy, hope, courage, and the will to make every good moment last.
Although Lori knew her long-term prognosis was not good, she approached life as any young mom would, taking the attention from herself to focus on her family and making sure her son, Hayden, was happy. She marked each of Hayden’s birthdays with a letter penned to him and spoke often of her hope to be able to take him by the hand to his first day of kindergarten. Sadly, Lori died six weeks before she was able to do so, in July 2010, at age 41.
Lori’s family has been deeply affected by BRCA related cancers. Lori’s father, Joel Haber, was diagnosed with a rare BRCA related melanoma cancer in May 2009, and learned the severity of his illness as he accompanied Lori on one of her many chemotherapy treatments. Joel passed away in April 2010, three months before his daughter. Lori’s aunt also passed away at the age of 30 from breast cancer.
The Lori Haber Buckfire Memorial Fund was created in 2017 by her loving Husband Daniel, and her beloved son Hayden. Lori was a truly amazing woman, passionate about children and helping others fighting the battle against cancer. This fund is established in her memory to promote ovarian cancer research and education, and BRCA gene awareness.
My mother, Marilyn Peacock Stranahan Burtner, would have turned 80 this year (April 27). To honor her memory on such a special occasion, my husband Anthony and I decided to make a donation to FORCE's Peer Navigation Program, for which I also serve as a volunteer. The Peer Navigation Program is an invaluable resource, especially to those who are newly diagnosed and don't know where to turn to find someone who can relate to what they're going through.
Mom died on September 9, 2012 (age 73) of metastatic breast cancer, four years after her stage 1 diagnosis. (She had also been diagnosed with a different type of stage 1 breast cancer in her other breast in 2006.) She was tested for BRCA mutations after her first diagnosis, but those tests came back negative. She was never told she might need to be retested in a few years, even after her second breast cancer diagnosis in 2008.
In 2010, I was also diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. My breast surgeon recommended I get tested, as well. When I explained that my mother’s test was negative, my surgeon still insisted I get tested, because genetic testing advances so quickly.
I was not really shocked when my test came back positive for a BRCA2 mutation after my first surgery because, in addition to my mother's diagnosis, her side of the family had a long history of breast and ovarian cancer. My mother was retested, and this time her test came back positive for the same mutation. It turns out that our family's particular mutation was not discoverable until BART testing was introduced around 2008, so my mother's first test in 2006 wasn't "wrong"; the technology simply didn't exist yet. (It's my understanding that BART is now standard of care for BRCA testing.)
Additionally, Mom and I learned the hard way that early detection doesn't always save lives. My mother did everything "right"— she got her checkups, mammograms, etc., and when she was diagnosed she had all the recommended surgeries, radiation, chemo, tamoxifen, etc. None of that, however, prevented or cured her metastasis, and she died anyway. That was a very sobering concept to come to terms with. (Please note: I'm currently doing fine and haven't had a recurrence, but I know from my mother's experience that that possibility will always exist for me and for every other breast cancer patient.)
My mother got the information about her mutation too late. She had already been diagnosed with two different breast cancers in two years. Had she known she was BRCA positive in 2006, she would have had a prophylactic double mastectomy, which might have prevented her second breast cancer from developing in the other breast. (She had a lumpectomy after the first cancer diagnosis.) It was the second breast cancer that metastasized a few years later to her liver and bones that caused her death.
Her death was a very traumatic experience for all of us, and I still feel "survivor guilt" because I'm here and she isn't. I found out about my mutation too late to prevent my first breast cancer, but my prophylactic surgeries afterwards (mastectomies and ovaries/Fallopian tubes/uterus/cervix also removed) may prevent other cancers. My mother never had that opportunity.
Mom was my closest friend. I loved her so much that it still hurts every time I think about her. I decided shortly after she died that I would volunteer for an organization that helps people going through similar situations. That organization is FORCE. I enjoy serving as a Peer Navigator, not only to help others, but because it makes me feel less alone, as well. I have tried to take my own difficult and complex life experience and use it in a positive way by helping others. That is what my mother would have wanted and I'm proud to do it.
The maxim “knowledge is power,” meaning the ‘more one knows, the more one will be able to control events,’ dates as far back as 1597, yet the concept holds true today and resonates strongly with FORCE donor and board member, Tammy Li. In keeping with that philosophy, Tammy recently made a major gift to fund 2018 conference scholarships for those in financial need. Her donation marks the second time Tammy has made a major contribution to conference scholarships for Joining Forces Against Hereditary Cancer Conference attendees.
“From my personal experience, attending the Joining Forces Conference was transformative,” says Tammy. “I attended my first conference almost ten years ago, and I still recall two or three sessions that made a lasting impact on my overall hereditary cancer knowledge. I continue to refer back to my session notes for both myself and as a resource in serving others as a peer navigator and outreach leader.”
A researcher by nature and profession, Tammy also believes in gathering information from multiple sources. “I see young people at our local meetings who are there to learn as much as possible, and these local gatherings are wonderful, but bringing everyone together at an international conference is indescribable. There you hear speakers sharing their knowledge and their instincts on unlocking the keys to this disease and prevention options. The content is innovative and cutting-edge. There are rare opportunities to learn from the experts before their findings appear in the medical journals.”
Tammy feels great joy and satisfaction being able to provide learning opportunities for others. “This is a tangible gift that I am so happy to make,” says Tammy. “It is something I can do to make a difference in someone else’s life. I love the idea of helping a few people in a very deep and meaningful way.”
Tammy says that, as one touched by hereditary cancer, being at the conference offers a rare setting where everyone understands your experience. “You are surrounded by a range of supportive people, including ‘sister-types’ who have travelled a similar journey, and health care doctors, researchers and clinicians who truly comprehend the patient experience. You learn so much in such a short amount of time, and gain valuable support along the way. There’s huge return on investment for the time you are there,” Tammy beams.
Tammy first got involved with FORCE in 2007 and attended her first Joining Forces Against Hereditary Cancer Conference in 2009. She currently serves as an Outreach Leader and a Peer Navigator. Tammy joined the FORCE Board of Directors in 2018, and recently became the board secretary. This year she participated in her second Run Disney event, raising over $5000 for FORCE. Tammy has been married for 25 years and currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children.
Are you interested in ways you can make a difference in the lives of those touched by hereditary cancer? Please reach out for a conversation with Ruth Kucharz, Vice President of Development at RuthK@FacingOurRisk.Org or (866) 288-7475 x 705..