In April 2008, I was a 40 year old mother of three young children, married to a physician, and a practicing attorney with my own firm. However, my life changed dramatically when I was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer.
I was told that my cancer was inoperable and incurable, and that I would need chemotherapy for the rest of my life. I quickly realized that there were no resources available for stomach cancer patients and their families and that there were very few treatment options for advanced stomach cancer because it is not common within the United States. My chances of being alive in five years was only 4%. However, I refused to become a statistic!
I immediately began to educate myself about this disease and to seek the best available care. As I started to respond to treatment, I decided that I could make a difference in the treatment options for stomach cancer patients by using my education, experience, and contacts in the community. I received my law degree from the University of Miami and Bachelor of Arts from Emory University and had previous fundraising and business experience from running my own law practice for ten years. There is a sense of urgency for a person living with incurable cancer, and cancer also takes a huge toll on the cancer patient’s family. These factors, along with others, motivated me to raise funds for stomach cancer research.
In 2009, I founded Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer (DDF) to aggressively and immediately fund research into innovative, progressive, and cutting-edge treatments for stomach cancer; improve the diagnosis and treatment for this disease; raise awareness about stomach cancer; and provide information and assistance to stomach cancer patients, their families and caregivers. It is my dream that, with increased funding, more treatments for stomach cancer will become available sooner and a cure will be found. I decided to turn my personal challenge and upheaval into a positive force to create a better future for people diagnosed with stomach cancer.
I am assisted by thousands of Dream Team volunteers who help DDF make an impact each and every day. To date, DDF has 29 chapters internationally and helps patients all over the world. Annually, Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer (DDF) advocates in Washington D.C. at our Advocacy Day. Advocates from all over the United States participate in congressional meetings to raise awareness and to advocate for increased funding for gastric cancer research. Advocates include patients, survivors, family members, friends, caregivers, health care professionals, and researchers who share their stories with congressional members and staffers about how stomach cancer has impacted their lives. Prior to DDF’s first Advocacy Day in 2013, there had not been an organized effort on Capitol Hill to educate legislators about stomach cancer.
I am very proud to say that because of the efforts of Debbie’s Dream advocates, stomach cancer has now been included in the Department of Defense Peer Review Cancer Research Program as one of eleven cancers eligible for $50 million in funding. We have made a tremendous effort in stomach cancer research funding.
In addition, Debbie’s Dream Foundation has allocated research grants totaling $350,000. DDF’s research funding for basic, translational, and clinical stomach cancer research to scientists and clinicians at various career levels advances the field and makes progress toward the goal of increasing survival.
Debbie’s Dream offers stomach cancer support services through our free Patient Resource Education Program (PREP). Upon receiving a stomach cancer diagnosis, patients, families, and caregivers complete an online Resource Inquiry Form and are then matched with a mentor with whom they can share their stories, tips, advice, and concerns so no one feels alone in their fight. In addition, our staff assists inquirers with understanding their diagnosis, staging, treatment options, clinical trials, side effect management, research, management of the disease, and more. Our PREP program has helped thousands of patients, families, and caregivers around the world.
Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer is now the world’s leading organization for stomach cancer patients. For more information on Debbie’s Dream Foundation, stomach cancer facts, or how to get involved, visit us at www.DebbiesDream.org.