Welcome to the Gastric Cancer Fund Blog!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Since it was our first major event, we were cautiously optimistic regarding attendees, sponsors, etc, but the entire experience far exceeded all expectations. We were originally hoping for around 120 people but two weeks before the event we were forced to close registration as we had reached our venue maximum of 150 people. At $150 per person, attendees made a significant financial commitment to our cause, and I am incredibly grateful to all those who attended for their generosity and support.
From everyone I talked to, people had a fantastic time. It was certainly a raucous crowd! The beautiful setting at Fogarty Winery, high above the bay area in Woodside, CA set the tone for a beautiful night. We were so fortunately to have Next Food Network Star Finalists Hans Rueffert and Michael Thomas both travel into town to conduct a fantastic Paella cooking demonstration and tasting. As many of you know, Hans is a fellow gastric cancer survivor and GCF board member. Hans and Michael worked the large and loud crowd with amazing grace. I can’t believe their humongous Paella was completely gone before dinner started!
Dinner was provided by Thomas John Events, and guests enjoyed a scrumptious 3 course meal. After dinner, we had a few presentations about our organization and goals. In addition to my overview, Dr. James Ford reviewed our research objectives and provided insight into some of the recent progress made against gastric cancer. Rob Salmon, Executive Vice President of Field Operations at NetApp, my company and a huge support of our efforts, spoke about NetApp’s commitment to helping GCF fight this disease.
In total, the event raised over $40,000 for gastric cancer research and educated 150 people on this little known disease that is killing far too many of our loved ones every year. We’ve build a growing base of support in the bay area that will hopefully only grow over the years.
There are so many people to thank for helping make this event a success. First, our corporate sponsors – Yahoo!, NetApp, G2 and Capital Guardian Trust – all made significant financial contributions to support our efforts. Patricia Gallagher was our first major financial supporter of the event, and allowed us to underwrite much of the night’s costs. Ross Kemp and Arleen Gallagher were instrumental in the planning and overall execution of the evening. Jackie Parr and Wendy Seymour were fantastic in the chaos of running our registration table and silent auction. And of course Hans and Michael for traveling from Atlanta and San Diego, respectively, just to entertain and educate us.
For your enjoyment, I’ve posted several pictures of the evening on our Facebook page. Thanks to all that were able to attend. We look forward to seeing you all next year!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Now, my two-year diagnosis anniversary was a bit more complicated. Don’t get me wrong, I am so blessed and grateful to be 2 years “cancer free.” But in reaching this milestone it’s impossible to not remember those first few crazy days after diagnosis. I remember things just coming out of nowhere, feeling like I’d been hit with a ton of bricks. We weren’t sure if the cancer had spread, where I would get my treatment, what my life would look like, whether I’d be there for my wife to help bring our third child into the world in just a few short weeks, or if I’d be around to help raise any of my kids.
I’ve talked to several survivors, and I think this is fairly common, but I’m not sure anyone ever fully processes everything they go through during diagnosis, treatment and recovery. I just remember being so weak physical and drained emotionally during that time, it’s sometimes even hard to remember everything you’ve gone through. And now, just going back for testing and follow-ups brings back strange memories and emotions. And the time spent waiting to get those CT scan results…even after two years, seems to actually get more excruciating.
And make no mistake; I’m one of the VERY lucky ones. When it comes to gastric cancer, not many make it to two years. For this particular type of cancer, the three year mark is when the chance for reoccurrence drops significantly, so I’ve still got another tense year to sweat it out. But each clean test is a victory, a step in the right direction and something to cherish. It’s also another source of motivation to help work with researchers and hospitals to figure out a way to help others get to this place and beyond.
Monday, September 28, 2009
A beautiful evening was shared by over 200 guests including Jan’s wife Cindy, children Jason and Ashley, and many of their friends and extended family. Everyone at the event contributed money towards the GCF in memory of Jan and in honor of the great man that he was. The benefit generated $8,500 in onsite and online donations and the event organizers are hoping to make this an annual event.
I’d like to personally thank Ali, Jamie, Jessica V. and Jessica R. for all their work on the event and to Jan’s family for their willingness to share the proceeds of this event with our organization. You all did an amazing job of honoring Jan’s life and legacy and helping to fight this terrible disease so that others will not have to experience the same loss. To see pictures from the event, please visit our Facebook fan page.
While we are on the topic of events, I also want to let folks in Atlanta know about an event that gastric cancer survivor and GCF board member Hans Rueffert is hosting tomorrow, September 29th, at PRIME in Atlanta. Hans will be signing copies of his cookbook, “Eat Like There's No Tomorrow,” and donating 25% off all book sales to our organization. In addition, the owners at PRIME will donate 10% of all dinner tickets to GCF. If you are in or near Atlanta tomorrow, please make an effort to show up. For more information, please click here.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Struggling through my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I was fortunate to have a great team around me. My wife and kids (the best possible motivation to fight for every single day), family, friends, medical team, work community, etc. It really was the thing that got me through my time in the hospital, the long days of chemo and radiation, and on to my current state of recovery.
Even though I literally couldn’t have asked for a better team, I longed to reach out for folks who were going through the same thing I was: fighting through the pain, fear, anxiety, bizarre side effects of life with half or no stomach, etc. When I met my first “fellow gastric cancer patient” I felt like we were long lost brothers. Just to know someone else was out there going through the same thing made this crazy disease a bit more bearable.
That is one of the primary reasons I started this foundation, to connect with folks out there going through this battle. Because cancer is never simple, there are always differences (age, stage, treatment, etc), but we’re all in the gastric cancer boat together. And it’s not just those with the disease. The first thing my wife asks if I meet a fellow survivor, “oh, can I talk to their wife/husband?” Survivors aren’t the only ones that need help and want to connect.
I shared in my first post how excited I am that we are getting lots of traffic on the website, and it’s great. But even more important to me are the individual emails and phone calls I get from folks, making that personal connection. If it’s someone that is a long time survivor, it gives me hope that I can live a long and productive life. If it’s someone that is struggling either physically or emotionally, it inspires me to continue raising funds or building the registry so that we can help get more information and research done to fight the disease. And if it’s a family member that has lost a loved one, I want to make sure that this is an organization that will always remember those courageous people and make sure their deaths were not in vain.
So, I’m thanking you all for becoming part of the team and helping me personally and this organization fight this disease.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
After just a few months of existence, one thing is clear to me, there is a significant need for an organization like ours. The numbers don’t lie. In only five months, we’re already received over 90,000 hits on our website from over 77 countries around the world. And even more compelling are the personal interactions I’ve had with survivors, caregivers and those who have lost loved ones to this terrible disease. Almost on a daily basis, I get a message from someone thanking us for starting this organization. Just knowing there are others with the same fear, anxiety, hope and determination is comforting and inspiring.
The battle ahead of us is huge. As I mentioned in our newsletter, the American Cancer Society revealed that gastric cancer receives the least federal funding of any type of cancer. For every cancer-related death, only $1,168 federal research dollars are spent on gastric cancer, versus $18,870 for cervical cancer and $14,095 for breast cancer. What this tells me is that (at least in the short term) we need to take matters into our own hands. And we’re already begun to do that.
In addition to launching our website and forming multiple forums to connect people, we’re raised enough funds to begin building the registry. Also, our technical and scientific volunteer teams are well on their way to architecting our genomic sequencing system. These two actions coming together will allow us to being analyzing gastric cancer cells and provide researchers with demographic, tumor and blood data to study the disease in far greater detail.
Like this blog, we are only at the beginning of a very long journey. I intent to make it a successful one for all of us, so please stay tuned and connected. And please engage by sharing your comments, suggestions and recommendations. We’re all in this together so we want to hear from you.