Recognition for “Putting Kids First”

Dragon Master Foundation, Uncategorized

Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Kids First Research Program

We are so proud to share the announcement that the Center for Data Driven Discovery in Biomedicine (D3b) has been selected to lead the NIH’s Kids First Data Resource Center. D3b is based at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and they along with a number of other partners, including Dragon Master Foundation, will be a integral part of the new, collaborative effort funded by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund to discover the causes of pediatric cancer and structural birth defects through the use of big data.  The Center will be known as the “Kids First Pediatric Data Resource Center” (DRC).

This effort goes hand-in-hand with the work we have been doing on Cavatica, and as a liaison to the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium’s Scientific Advisory Committee, I will be attending meetings for the next three days related to this and other collaborative efforts to take place in the coming year. We are so excited about the influx of resources from NIH, but  it does not take any of the pressure off of the work we are already funding. This means that the project will grow bigger and faster, but there is much work to be done on our own efforts. For example, the clinical trial that we have committed to fund still needs to be funded.

We want to take this opportunity to recognize all of the hospitals, foundations, individual doctors and researchers, and families who have worked together to get us this far. This really is a massive undertaking that we believe will forever change the way we conduct medical research. Please take a moment to read the full press release here.

 

How weird are you?

Dragon Master Foundation

This article makes a really good case for big data analytics in medicine. (Which is the heart of what we are working on.) It essentially says that we all have gene mutations making us each much more unique than scientists previously thought. It is really only through compiling vast numbers that we might be able to see some patterns emerge. 
This applies to cancer research, but it can also apply to all sorts of other medical conditions. Have you ever had a doctor tell you that your response to a drug shouldn’t cause the reaction it caused it caused in you? That’s kind of the same thing. A drug might do different things to you than to other people because of your unique genomic composition. If you’ve ever dealt with a reaction like this, you know how frustrating it can be. Now imagine your reaction is the difference between life and death. Pretty important, right?
We are laying the groundwork that will help people navigate these situations. Chances are, it will be you or someone you love that needs the answers. Help us now, so we can help you later.

Signs, Llamas, and Hallelujahs

David's Journey, Dragon Master Foundation

dancingllama.jpg

A lot of people I know believe that their loved one can send signs from Heaven. I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic about this, but I can’t deny that things happen in quirky and unexpected ways that certainly bring David front and center for me.

Today, I was listening to Ben Rector’s Brand New. It’s a song I really connect with – usually in a very happy way. Today, though, it happened to play as I was doing some work on kids with brain cancer. I listened to the lyrics in a different way because of that. Normally, I think of my husband when I hear it, but today, I thought of David. He had this crazy dance thing he would do in middle school called the Llama dance. It was silly and pointless and that was the whole point. It was just to make people laugh. The lyrics for the song say this,

Like when I close my eyes and don’t even care if anyone sees me dancing

Like I can fly, and don’t even think of touching the ground

Like a heartbeat skip, like an open page

Like a one way trip on an aeroplane

It’s the way that I feel when I’m with you, brand new”

I miss the fresh and happy way that David looked at things. He saw the good. He saw the possibilities. A lot of what we are trying to do is because David believed that REALLY good things were possible. The work we are doing is not easy. It is hard. It is expensive. Half of my days are spent alternating between people who have trouble connecting with the cause because they haven’t lost a loved one to a “rare” disease, and the other half is dealing with people whose lives have been shattered by it. The real message isn’t about rare disease, though. It’s about the human condition, and how we can improve life for everyone if we do this one hard thing.

“Brand New” normally makes me very happy, but today, it just made me sad. It made me miss the way I got to feel when I was with David. I can tell you that it feels a little strange to be crying buckets while such an upbeat song plays, but there I was. The song ended, and the next song to play was

Andy Grammer’s “Good To Be Alive”.

If you aren’t familiar, some of the key lyrics for this song are

I’ve been grinding so long, been trying this shit for years

And I got nothing to show, just climbing this rope right here

And if there’s a man upstairs, he kept bringing me rain

But I’ve been sending up prayers and something’s changed

I think I finally found my hallelujah

I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life

Now all my dreams are coming true, ya

I’ve been waiting for this moment

And it’s good to be alive right about now

Good, good, good, good to be alive right about now”

If you don’t really listen, it just sounds like a typical happy song, but when you listen to the lyrics, you understand that the joy he feels is because he has spent years trying to get to this point. The struggle to achieve your dreams makes attaining the dream euphoric. On paper, we have a lot to be proud of, but in reality, we’re still climbing that rope. We’re putting hand over hand, making progress. The doors are opening, but it will take a lot more money to really get us where we need to go.

I think this song came on to remind me that we will have our “hallelujah” moment. We will see the day when we can truly deliver people from the grips of brain cancer. I believe that the course we are on will also help find cures for lots of other diseases and medical conditions. But we really do need your help. We have all been given the gift of life TODAY. And what we do with that gift can make our collective world a better place. Will you join us?

We need to people who will help us raise money in the Macy’s Charity Challenge. It doesn’t start until July 11th, but you can sign up now. You may not think it will make a big difference, but it does. Because if you take a step forward, other people will step forward, too. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t online much or if you hate fundraising. In fact, it means so much more if those things are true. By signing up, you are saying you believe in David’s vision. You’re saying you believe we can create a better world. It only takes a few minutes to sign up, and you could help us have that “Hallelujah” moment.

Sign up here: https://www.crowdrise.com/fundraise-and-volunteer/the-team/dragon-master-foundation

(If you see an image that says “test team”, don’t worry – it should still take you to the Fired Up For A Cure/Dragon Master Foundation Page.

Leaving an impact on the world

Dragon Master Foundation, Uncategorized


Last night we attended the second night of Richard’s class reunion. These are people he’s known for the majority of his life, but I mostly only see them every 5-10 years at these functions. They are a funny, welcoming group, and I enjoy seeing them reminisce. This year, though, one of them told me I was now a “falcon” and referred to Richard as my date.😉  

This group of people has been touched by cancer. We are not the only ones with a child in Heaven because the disease. Countless lives have been ended too soon, and others have fought battles that have left them with deep wounds. We were offered words of encouragement throughout the group, and that always has a buoying effect on me. But more than that, last night we got a significant gift. 

One of the cancer warriors gave a generous $1,000 to our Love Is On team. I know that it was a meaningful gift from her, and it was received with all the tears and hugs you might expect. And while that was an amazing and significant donation, we recognize that a lot of people can’t give at that level. So I wanted to also tell you about some of the other things that happened that are helping us along the way.

The event committee had extra soda and beer from the event that they donated to Dragon Master Foundation so we can offset the cost of an upcoming event.

 A classmate’s wife offered to reach out to her network to tell them about the Love Is On challenge and help us get donations. 

People asked about the challenge and what it could mean for the foundation. They asked about Orlando. And I believe the help from that group will continue to grow as the week goes on. These folks have reached the age where many are retiring and looking back on the contributions they’ve made to the world. Kids, grandkids, service to others, challenges overcome … They have a lot to be proud of. We think being a Dragon Master Foundation supporter is an excellent thing to add to that list.

We have a very urgent need for donations over the next few days. We need to be in the top 10 charities by Tuesday in order to receive a $5,000 grant from Revlon. That boost would really help us get to our $50,000 mark much faster. If you can afford $15, we have a cool window cling we can send you. For donations more than $150, you get a whole bundle of goodies including a great, limited edition awareness t-shirt. Please donate today. Any amount over $10 counts toward the contest and it is significant to us.

Helping Orlando

Dragon Master Foundation, People We've Helped

20160621_145235-1This week has renewed my faith in humanity. It’s so easy to sit by and watch the world slowly spiral out of control, but it’s really not hard to make it stand still, either. when you are told there is nothing more they can do for you loved one, be it your child, your mother or your husband, your world stops. But only for a moment, and then it starts falling. The more time that passes, the faster it goes. You’re hurtling toward an abyss with nothing to slow you down. With a lot of help, this week, we were able to slow that time down for a family who is so desperately looking for a cure.

Orlando is a sweet 11 year old boy who lives in our hometown. He has two sisters and a brother, and a family who loves him very much. And the local doctors told the family it was time for him to go on hospice. No more options. But that wasn’t acceptable to his mom, Lacy. She kept searching for a way to save Orlando. There are no guarantees in the fight against brain cancer, but she found a treatment that offers Orlando some hope. Some more time. But that treatment was half a country away.

Dr. Santosh Kesari has been working with brain cancer patients for his entire career. From Harvard to UCSD, he has gone where the research took him, searching for better treatments for people with brain cancer, specifically glioblastoma multiforme, which is what Orlando has. In the past few years, he’s had some success with a drug called Everolimus. Everolimus (Afinitor Disperz) got accelerated approval for  subependymal giant cell astrocytoma is adults and children in 2012. Afinitor Disperz is the first pediatric formulation to be approved by FDA for the treatment of a tumor that occurs primarily during childhood. (In layman’s terms, astrocytomas turn into glioblastoma multiforme, so that is why this drug is a possibility.)

You can see some of the results Dr. Kesari has had via this article:

http://abc7.com/health/doctor-improves-cancer-teens-health-with-game-changing-approach/1175310/

I know it seems like something that has been FDA approved since 2012 should be common knowledge, but the 5 year study results haven’t been out that long. (Five year study results: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26381530With brain cancer, you really need a doctor who is paying attention to the very latest studies to try and gain as much quality time for the patient as possible. Dr. Kesari isn’t just paying attention  – he’s one of the ones paving the way.

But finding a possible treatment is just the first step. Dr. Kesari needs to evaluate Orlando in person to make sure this is indeed a viable treatment option for him. (All other labs and scans would indicate that it is.) 

With brain cancer, the clock is such an enemy, but treatments like this give us real reason for hope. On Orlando’s behalf, we reached out to the community for help to get him and his mom to California to see Dr. Kesari. Thanks to Brad Pistotnik Law and  a very generous offer of the use of a jet, we will be able to get Orlando and his mom to Santa Monica on Monday. We found out yesterday that there is enough room for Orlando’s sister to go, too, and we are so happy that she will be able to be there and give him moral support. They are only 15 months apart, and they are very close. 

There will be additional expenses for this family while they are split up trying to care for Orlando and his siblings. Dad is staying in Kansas with the two youngest children, but he works so they need additional childcare. Orlando’s meals will be at the hospital, but there is no coverage for his mom and sister for food. Also, this is an “out of network” hospital, so there will be higher medical bills.

Dragon Master Foundation recently adopted a change in our bylaws to be able to help families in this situation. A brain cancer patient can be sponsored by a person or community, and donations can be raised to directly help that person. The first person to benefit from this new program is Orlando. If you would like to help the family with expenses, you can text the word “cancer” to 91999.

If you can’t help financially, please share this story and join our Thunderclap, an effort to help win a million dollars for cancer research. You can join the Thunderclap here: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/44920-love-is-on-to-conquer-cancer

#Cavatica Cancer Research Database Has Launched!

Uncategorized

The day is finally here, and I am so excited! Today is the day the beta version of Cavatica launches to the cancer research world. A dream we had almost three years ago is coming true today. It’s not done. Technically, it will never be done. It will always be adding new patients and more information. Putting that aside, it isn’t as “done” as we want it to be. There is more functionality to add. There is plenty of DNA sequencing yet to be completed. But today, there is a pretty awesome database that is already unlike anything else cancer researchers have had access to before.

If you know a doctor or researcher, please tell them about this awesome resource. We will continue to build it out and make it better, but I think they will be blown away – even right now. (Say those last three words in your best Southern accent. That’s the only way to truly give them the emphasis they deserve.)

Here is the official press release:

The Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium (CBTTC) and the Pacific Pediatric NeuroOncology Consortium (PNOC) conclude Brain Cancer Awareness Month of May with the announcement of the Beta launch of Cavatica, a new cloud-based environment for securely storing, sharing and analyzing large volumes of pediatric brain tumor genomics data.

Cavatica will, for the first time, allow doctors, researchers and data scientists unparalleled access to pediatric brain tumor genomic data paired with a suite of analysis tools in a cloud computing environment that enables scalable, faster and more robust research. Upon its full release, Cavatica will host the largest standardized, integrated, and quality-controlled genomic database of pediatric brain cancer genomic data.

Working with Seven Bridges, a biomedical data analysis company, the eight CBTTC site members and 15 member hospitals of PNOC are further fulfilling their commitment earlier this year to the White House Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) with the launch of the Beta version of Cavatica being announced today. The Beta release will be open for subscribed end-user input and will be iteratively enhanced by ongoing implementation of advanced platform features and deposition of additional data sets over the coming months. These datasets will include additional pediatric cancer supporting pan-cancer pediatric data analysis in partnership with additional consortia. including the SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team.

Sign up for access to the Beta release of Cavatica is available for researchers and data scientists by going to cavatica.org.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact the CBTTC at CBTTCadmin@email.chop.edu

#MomentsofMagic

Dragon Master Foundation, Uncategorized

Cancer can be one of life’s most difficult challenges. It has brought more pain to my life than I care to remember, but it has also given me great awareness of the little moments in life. I think it teaches a lot of people about gratitude, frequently in ways we wouldn’t imagine. I know trying to imagine what it is like to live with a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, especially if you think about it being your child or other loved one. It’s sad and scary, and well, I don’t want to think about it either. But I do want to bring attention to the need for research. I want you to think about ways we can cure cancer. I want you to think about it all the time – like those of us who have been faced with it in our daily lives.

But how can we think about it, and act on it, without being overwhelmed by it? After talking with a lot of folks, I think I found a way to shed some positive light on the issue. We’re going to start a sort of gratitude journal, where we can focus on those little moments that are good, that are special because they are so normal. We want you to see how grateful cancer patients and their families are for those little things.

So here’s what I need from you. I need you to start sharing those moments with me, so that Dragon Master Foundation can share them with the world. We’re going to call them #MomentsofMagic . They can be anything you want – as long as it was a moment that was special to you as a cancer warrior, caregiver, loved one or friend. We’d love to share pictures with the stories as well, so send whatever you would like to share to amanda.haddock (at)dragonmasterfoundation.org.

Together, we can focus on the positive. As Dumbledore would say, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

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Turn $1 into $5,000!

Dragon Master Foundation

Missing Piece HeartWe stumbled across another online competition. This one is for $5,000, but it ends on Sunday! Since Sunday is Valentine’s Day, this seems like the perfect chance to share your love with someone in a very meaningful way.

The app is free, but it is only for iPhone users running OS 8.1. That limits the pool of potential helpers a little bit, so we are depending on all of you to help us spread the word. The app is pretty straight forward, but I’ve had several people ask questions, so here’s a quick walk-through:
SmallTokenhomescreen
1. They download the Small Token app.
2. Launch the app & click “Give A Gift”

 

 

 

 

 
3. Enter the email address of the person they want to honorSmallTokenDonatescreen.
4. Choose Dragon Master Foundation as the nonprofit (Type in “Dragon Master” and you get it)
5. Enter an amount. $1 is fine!!
6. Schedule the delivery – anytime between now and any future date.
7. Enter a personal message. It can be a thank you, a Valentine wish – anything!
8. Hit “preview”
9. You will see an orange screen with a heart. At the bottom, you can hit “edit look” to change the color and the icon. Pick what you like, then hit done.
10. Hit “continue” & you will be directed to Give Lively where you can enter your payment information. After you enter your info, click the donate button.
11. You will get a Thank You message, and you are all done!!

I know that looks like a lot of steps, but really it is pretty simple.

Please go enter a donation today and actively encourage others to do the same. We just started last night, and we’ve gotten over $100 in donations already, so it is worth a few minutes of your time.

If you would like to help spread the word on social media,  here are some possible tweets:
Pls download @SmallTokenApp and send a greeting to help @DragonMasterFdn win $5,000. #charity with the highest # of donors wins.

Thank someone today by donating to @DragonMasterFdn in their name w/@SmallTokenApp. You could help us win $5,000! #endcancer

Help win $5k for #research 7& give a #cancer warrior a smile by donating to @dragonmasterfdn & sending a greeting through @smalltokenapp!

 

Thanks & have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Is Empathy Better than Apathy?

Dragon Master Foundation

Apathy

Let me just start this post by saying I just got bad news. I’ve come to know a family very well through their son’s GBM battle, and I just found out they are sending him home on hospice. No more options. He’s just a little boy. His Caring Bridge page has a rocket ship. He likes Legos and Star Wars. And they don’t have any other treatments for him. He is struggling to breathe, as many warriors do, because the tumor is pressing on critical parts of his brain. I’ve sat beside my son’s bed and watched that all happen. I’m horrified that they will have to do the same.

With each new family I meet, I think to myself, “I hope this is the one we save.” And I believe each time that it might be that person. That dad, that daughter. When I express my frustration in the timeline to those around me, they are always quick to say, “but look how far you’ve come!” That may be true, but it isn’t far enough, fast enough. We’ve made amazing headway. But it isn’t saving Jack.

When I post on Facebook or Twitter about these kids, people are quick to offer prayer. They are even quicker to send a birthday card or gift to the sick child. That gives peace for a moment, but I want more. I want the same kind of action and passion toward curing these warriors so that we don’t feel the need to make their birthday special because it is probably their last. Which brings me around to my question. Is empathy better than apathy?  Are we really helping anyone by feeling sorry for them? When you read those stories and posts and think, “oh how sad”, does it incite you to action?

Today I read some of the comments on VP Biden’s Cancer Moonshot post. At that time, there had only been 125 people who had shared their cancer stories. My story is near the top with only 10 likes. Are you kidding me?!? The Vice President of our country is finally making cancer research an issue and only 125 people could be bothered to respond? I get that not everyone likes to write about that stuff, but everyone could go click like on a story that resonates with them. Is cancer research important to you or not?

I’ll be perfectly honest. Six years ago it wasn’t a priority for me. I thought most cancers were curable, and that the ones that weren’t were extremely rare. I was wrong. Cancer is still a devastating disease that takes many forms – quite a few of which are virtually untreatable. Oh, they will do some form of treatment for everyone, but in cases like brain cancer, they know it most likely won’t do much good. May God bless the folks who go through these treatments knowing it may not help them, but it might help someone else down the road. David did that. And that’s why I am so passionate about this. If I had gotten passionate about it 10 years ago, maybe we could have saved him. But I’ll be damned if I sit by and let other people die when I know that science is capable of better treatments, and yes, maybe even cures.

When I was reading those posts, several people asked what they could do. No one had responded to them, so I did. I told them to volunteer with groups who are looking to change the status quo. Post on social media in support of those groups, and financially support them whenever you can. If we want change, we have to make it happen. Today the bad news went to Jack’s family. It could be anyone else tomorrow. Seven more children will be diagnosed tomorrow. Three of them will lose their battles. Every day. To me, that means we have absolutely no time to lose. What does it mean to you?

 

Imagine

David's Journey, Dragon Master Foundation

IMG_3572Imagine for a moment that you were diagnosed with cancer. (I pray this is never real for you.) You are sitting with your doctor, and he gives you your treatment options based on what they think might work for you. You’re given the odds based on every other person who has ever had that type of cancer. What would you think?

I have not been diagnosed with cancer, but my son, David, was. As his parent, it was my job (along with his other parents) to choose a course of treatment to give him the best chance at survival and the best quality of life. They told us the odds – that he would probably die within the year. We chose to believe in a better outcome, and so did David. We studied everything we could get our hands on to improve his odds. And we did, but only for a while. David died 20 months after being diagnosed.

His odds were based on every other person who ever had that disease. He should have lived longer because he was young – just 16 at diagnosis. But I know others who were much older and lived much longer. Why? If you were diagnosed, wouldn’t you want to know why some people live longer?

In essence, that is what Dragon Master Foundation is trying to do. We are helping fund a database that will help researchers discover why some patients respond well to a drug and why some don’t. The answers are there…in our DNA. The problem is, most hospitals only have access to a relatively small number of patient records. One hospital alone will never accumulate enough data for true “big data” analytics. Because of the multitude of cancer types and subtypes, even most consortiums don’t really have enough data to see the big picture. And yet, you will see and hear about more consortiums formed all the time. More efforts to amass that kind of data.

You might think that we are just one more effort, but let me tell you why we are different. We aren’t just a consortium. Yes, we do have certain hospitals who have agreed to the strict standards for data collection and sharing. But unlike a traditional consortium, the records being collected are available for researchers at other institutions. Virtually anyone with need can access this data. At this point, there are over 1,400 subjects in the database, but that number is growing every day because more people are diagnosed every day.

When a diagnosis comes in your world, do you want statistics based on every other person, or do you want to know what treatment will work for you? Help us build the resource today so that we all have a better chance at survival tomorrow.

P.S.

I am honored to share this picture of Jonny with you all again. You may know that he is on hospice care now. If you would like to send a kind word to his family, you can do so here: https://www.facebook.com/projectteamjonny