Who We Are

Patrons

Professor Michael Friedlander AM

Professor Michael Friedlander, AM PhD FRACP, Head of Medical Oncology at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital and a Patron of Life Force, has this to say about Life Force:

“I have been associated with the Life Force Cancer Foundation since its inception in 1993 and have been more than impressed with the support that they have offered to patients with cancer and to their families. They have survived largely on the goodwill of the staff and community who have donated their time, as well as funds to run the programs.

There is now ample evidence to support psychosocial service provision and this is no longer an area of controversy as it was when Life Force was established. There are now psychosocial guidelines endorsed by the NHMRC and no one would argue that this is an important and essential component of cancer care.

One of the major advantages of the Life Force Cancer Foundation is that it sees patients outside the hospital system in a non-threatening environment and I see this as one of its major strengths. In my experience, many people do not want to return to the hospital setting for psychological support once treatment has completed, due to the memories that are evoked by returning regularly to the same institution.

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Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

Another major strength of Life Force is that the counsellors work with clinicians rather than against them and this is consistent with the holistic approach to cancer care.”
"I was honoured to be invited to be one of the Patrons of Life Force by Jilly Pascoe over 25 years ago not long after she had completed cancer treatment when she recognised the importance and need for additional psychological support beyond what was available in busy and under-resourced cancer centres. She and her colleagues were way ahead of their time and understood that more had to be done to support people diagnosed with cancer as well as their families and they set about to deal with this, rather than just talk about the problem. Personal experiences and struggles with a cancer diagnosis, its implications, the treatment and the side effects as well as the uncertainty about prognosis following completion of treatment were the catalysts to establish an organisation that has been much more successful than anyone would have envisioned since the concept for Life Force was first proposed. The credit for the success of Life Force goes solely to the many committed volunteers who have put their heart and soul into the organisation. They can look back with pride in how they have supported and helped countless thousands of people with a cancer diagnosis. We still need Life Force more than ever and I wish them well over the next 25 years."
- Michael Friedlander

Gabi Hollows AO

Gabi is a founding director of The Fred Hollows Foundation and has always had a strong interest in health and the well-being of others. She practised as an orthoptist for many years, working beside Fred Hollows on The National Trachoma Program. Gabi was a founding member of Life Force and is a strong supporter of the Life Force philosophy and programs.

In 2013 Gabi was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia and has also been declared one of Australia’s ‘100 Living National Treasures’. She also holds an Advance Australia Award (Community Service) and a Centenary Award from the Australian Government.

"Jilly, a long-time friend of myself and my late husband Fred Hollows, asked me if I would become a founding member and patron of Life Force Foundation, a not for profit organisation she established. I happily agreed to that request as I believed strongly in her concept and the program of services she was offering to support people living with cancer.

I had just lost my husband Fred to cancer and understood the painful emotional and psychological struggle that patients and families go through. I was also by Jilly’s side as she went through her own cancer experience and very much wanted to support her endeavour to bring much-needed help to those in distress.  

In 1995, Jilly and my husband John Balazs who had become a pro bono legal adviser to Life Force Foundation put in an application for the Foundation to become a registered charity. Life Force was granted charitable status as a Public Benevolent Institution.

I am proud to be associated with this organisation and its important work in the community for all those affected by cancer. "

- Gabi Hollows

Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

Jilly Pascoe - Founder

Life Force Foundation was set up originally following my own experience as a cancer patient. After my diagnosis and treatment for cancer in 1992, I realised there was no psychosocial support available for patients and their families in dealing with the emotional, psychological and spiritual impact of the cancer experience on their lives. As a trained counsellor and group facilitator, I felt a strong urge to fill this gap in providing a service that I felt was lacking. I believed we needed to treat more than just the disease we needed to treat the whole human being, to foster a holistic and integrated approach.

I wanted to provide a safe caring and supportive environment, a space where patients could come together and be reassured that they did not have to manage these huge challenges alone.

In 1993, I first set up a weekly support group in the eastern suburbs of Sydney for cancer patients, based on my own training and also informed by my own experience as a cancer patient, and with my friend and colleague Caro Jonas as co-facilitator and meditation teacher. The groups offered a place where patients could express and explore the emotional impact of cancer on their lives, gain a new perspective, and learn new strategies that could bring an improvement in their quality of life.

Other groups were set up in different suburbs and further programs were added, such as country retreats, special workshops, and individual counselling services, telephone counselling, home and hospital visits, grief counselling, and a separate support group for carers. It has been a great blessing for me to have been part of the Life Force team bringing these supportive care services to people in need. Seeing first hand how people have had their hearts eased and their spirits lifted through our programs is so rewarding, and it has been a privilege to be part of their lives. 

Over the years, many others have continued the work, and as we prepare to enter our 25th year of service to the community as a charity, we celebrate many achievements during that time, and look forward to providing our healing programs for many years to come.


Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

The Board

Nina Witenden - President & Chair

Nina is Life Force President, a cancer survivor, a mother and a friend, she has benefited greatly from the support of Life Force while enduring the treatment and existence with a rare bone cancer. Understanding first hand the horrific path cancer can present, and in contrast, the peace the support of the like-minded treading a similar path could give the patient, Nina wanted to give back by joining the Life Force Board. 

Nina loves travel, food, wine, design and fashion, she will bring her skills from a corporate career in the finance industry, involving strategic business management roles, to include stakeholder management, project management, marketing and sales management to the team. 

Nina's career as a senior manager with over 20 years' business experience in the financial services industry, included an outstanding track record developing financial advice delivery and strategy, line management, organizational development and team leadership. Nina has a passion for talent growth and has successfully sourced, recruited and developed talent, due to unique business success in identifying individual talent and utilizing the strengths of others to create successful, dynamic and resourceful teams.

Nina's objective is to bring her skills to the table to support this wonderful charity.


Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

Michael Parle - Vice President

Michael is a clinical psychologist who has been working with people affected by life-changing and life-threatening illness, along with members of their treatment teams, for 25 years.
Michael first connected with Life Force in the late 90s, involving members in communication training projects for health professionals. Michael became a Director in December 2017 and is now Vice President.

He supports Life Force, recognising what a valuable connection it can provide for people living day to day with cancer.

Angel Ioannou

Angel attended LFCF sessions in late 2001 after his treatment for cancer that year. He strongly agrees with the philosophy of the foundation and has assisted in fundraising and in some of the information systems needs.

He became a director in 2006 and in 2017 was elected as President and was in that position until early 2019.

He looks to continue to promote and support the work of the organisation.

Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

Jilly Pascoe

As a counsellor and educator, Jilly has led supportive care programs for people living with cancer for the past 25 years with Life Force Foundation, NSW Department of Health and in collaboration with TAFE NSW.

Jilly has been pleased to take up a position on the board again from 2017.


Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

Nicole Murray

Nicole has been assisting with Life Force for nearly 20 years. Nicole provides business and management insights into running organisations and managing finances.

She became a director in 2006 and is also LFCF Treasurer.


Ambassadors

Deidre Pinder

Deidre Pinder has been a member of the Edgecliff Life Force group since 2010. She found the experience very helpful and fell into the role of Ambassador through informally networking and marketing the group.

She is now an Ambassador for Life Force, which involves marketing the group to the local hospitals and liaising with local health professionals.

Deidre is a social worker, has completed a workplace training certificate and human resource management diploma and partially completed a second degree in occupational therapy. She works for the public sector in a disability awareness training and policy role.

Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

Anastasia Melidis

Anastasia has been a supporter of Life Force for many years. Anastasia supports the organisation with her business management skills and looking to raise funds to support Life Force programs.

Facilitators

Caro Jonas

Caro Jonas and her friend Jilly Pascoe began running the first support groups in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs in 1993. Caro is a founding member of Life Force Foundation and has been a major influence in the supportive care services.

She is a meditation, relaxation, and creative visualization teacher. Caro has spent a lifetime developing her skills and has worked in the support groups since 1993. She co-facilitates both support groups for patients and survivors in the Eastern Suburbs and the Inner West, as well as the carers’ group with devotion and care.

‘My years with Life Force have been so rewarding and wonderful. So many great people have been in the groups over the last twenty-five years. It has been a privilege to share their journeys and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help and support them.’

- Caro Jonas


Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

Enisa Kurtanovich

Enisa is a caring and multilingual counsellor & psychotherapist with a combined 19 years of experience globally, in a variety of customer-focused roles. Her experience and dedication to her profession and other people is further highlighted by the many hours that she has committed to a number of voluntary-based organisations. 

Enisa is a valued member of Cancer Council NSW offering ongoing psycho-social support for cancer patients at Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick.

Enisa is the counselling facilitator for the Eastern Suburbs support group.


Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993

Jane Gillespie

Jane joined Life Force as a member of the Eastern Suburbs group in 1995 and after completing her counselling studies, co-facilitated Life Force weekly support groups for patients and survivors as well as the carers’ group from 1998 before retiring early in 2012.

Jane was always happy to step in if one of the counselling facilitators was away on leave and towards the end of 2014, after facilitating one group for four weeks while the counsellor was away, she realised how much she missed this work. So when the opportunity arose early in 2015 for her to again take up the counselling role for the carers’ group she accepted with pleasure and since May 2015 has co-facilitated this and the Inner West patients’ and survivors’ support group.

Jane is convinced that being a member of a Life Force group saved her life and feels passionately about the value of the type of support that Life Force provides.

She believes so much in the value of this work that in her own private practice she now exclusively counsels people affected by cancer.


Life Force Cancer Foundation Supporting people dealing with cancer since 1993