Seven Ways To Celebrate “National Cancer Survivor’s Day”

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7 Ways To Celebrate National Cancer Survivor's Day

National Cancer Survivor’s Day is a relatively new day of recognition on my radar, but I think it is really important. It is significant to me because I sometimes need a reminder that there ARE people who are surviving cancer. You see, I do a lot of work these days with the DIPG community – a pediatric brain cancer that claims the lives of nearly every patient. For them, being a survivor means you are alive today. It is the most stark reminder that we should all appreciate each day. Every. Single. Day.

So on this day to honor survivors, I thought I’d touch on some things you can do – every day – to make a difference for those fighting the cancer battle. I really want to focus on the “mundane” things that most of us do every day, so I’m gonna go through my typical day and show you how easy it is to make a difference.

#1 Social Media – When I get up in the morning, I typically check Twitter or Facebook to see what my friends are up to. I like to share their positive messages and I frequently share a message about cancer fundraisers. (Even if you can’t afford to participate in a fundraiser, sharing it on social media is a powerful way to help.)

#2 Pretty Flowers – In the summer, I will typically let the dog out and then wander into the back yard with him for a minute or two. I like to check the progress of the flowers, and that reminds me that National Brain Tumor Society has a bulb fundraiser that lets you have a annual reminder of your gift to their cause.

#3 Recycling – Back inside, I usually grab a quick bite to eat and then shower & get dressed. As I use up containers, I drop them into a small box for recycling. The salon I frequent has signed up to help with recycling, too, so our containers add up pretty fast.

#4 Wearables – What I’m wearing each day will vary, but on “casual” days, it’s almost always some sort of awareness shirt. Dressier days see me wearing a wristband, bracelet, or necklace. On a good day, I can wear all four things!

#5 Online Purchases – Then it’s usually time for the computer. If I need to order anything online, I make sure I check the vendors that use iGive.com or AmazonSmile so I can donate a percentage back to Dragon Master Foundation. My emails have a tagline that points people back to those simple ways they can raise money for charity. I really think everyone should use AmazonSmile. It doesn’t cost the participant anything, and it can add up quickly for the charity.

#6 Social Media – Ok, I know I’m listing this again, but things go by pretty fast on Twitter, so one tweet a day won’t necessarily reach a lot of people. During the day, whenever I end up on social media, I try to add a Tweet for the cause.

#7 Food – At the end of the day, we either make something at home or go out to eat, but either way, I’m careful to pay attention to the brands that support cancer research – especially brain or childhood cancer research. Those are much harder to find that other types, but you can bet we are there when Chili’s supports childhood cancer awareness every year! And our grocery store, Dillon’s, lets us donate a portion of our grocery bill to Dragon Master Foundation each time we shop with our rewards card.

So there you have it. Seven easy things you can do nearly every day to make a difference in the battle against cancer. Maybe if we all make it a daily effort, there will be a few more survivors to celebrate next year when this day rolls around.

Brain Cancer Awareness Month Needs You!

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DavidWearGray

Brain Cancer Awareness Month is, at best, bittersweet. A time for us to bring awareness to a disease that takes a devastating toll on families. It is a time for us to celebrate the victories of those who are living with this disease and at time for us to remember those who were taken by it.

I will be posting a lot this month about the brain cancer warriors who have crossed my path, and I will try to bring awareness to the disease and to events happening around the country. Everyone can wear grey and talk about brain cancer awareness month, but hopefully, by posting this list, you may also be able to find an event near you to attend. Please also consider changing your social media images to a grey awareness picture. If you Tweet, I’d love to connect with you on Twitter. Tweet me at @AmandaHaddock and you can use hashtags #btam (for brain tumor awareness month) and #BrainTumorThursday – a day each week throughout the year that we raise awareness.

If you know of an event that isn’t on the list, please message me so I can add it. I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding events all month, so please bookmark this list and check back!

Anywhere
May 8 – Go Grey for a Day – Make sure you wear grey on this day and tell people that you are doing it for brain tumor/cancer awareness

May 15 – Webinar to learn about the latest in collaborative brain cancer research – http://bit.ly/1dLwolc

Tune in to Catch The Brain Wave each Friday from 6-7pm EST on WESS 90.3 FM LIVE in Pennsylvania!! Listen on the web here: http://tunein.com/radio/WESS-903-s28605/

Look for ways you can contribute to your favorite organizations every day. There are too many organizations to list all the possibilities, but here are some ways you could help Dragon Master Foundation:
– Following us on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest
– Choosing us when you shop on AmazonSmile
– Recycling for us with our free shipping program
– Register your Dillons card using our #11547 – a lot of grocery stores have this option. If you don’t see your favorite foundation listed, tell them, so they can get signed up!
– Do your intent shopping with iGive

Also, check your favorite foundation’s website for other promotions that may be happening. For example, Dragon Master Foundation has the opportunity to win a unique piece of dragon art created just for the foundation! Check it out here.

Ok, now for a state by state listing of activities you can participate in:

California
May 2 – Bay Area Brain Tumor Walk – http://events.braintumor.org/bay-area-brain-tumor-walk/
May 3 – Los Angeles Ride for Kids – http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR?fr_id=1980&pg=entry#.VUMDZ2TBzGc
May 8 – Striking out Pediatric Brain Cancer with the Los Angeles Angels – http://www.eventbrite.com/e/striking-out-pediatric-brain-cancer-with-the-angels-maxlove-project-and-the-mckenna-claire-tickets-16325952363
May 16 – Come Fly With Me Party with a Purpose – http://mckennaclairefoundation.org/events/come-fly-with-me-5th-annual-party-with-a-purpose-051615/
May 30 – San Diego Brain Tumor Walk – http://events.braintumor.org/san-diego-brain-tumor-walk/

Connecticut
Sharing Hope Walk the Walk Talk the Talk – http://hope.abta.org/site/TR?fr_id=3330&pg=entry

Florida
May 2 – National Walk to End Brain Tumors – http://wizathon.com/walktoendbraintumors-fl/
May 9 – Prohibition Gala – http://btagala.com/

Georgia
May 5 – 11 Annual JSL Charity Classic – http://www.jslcharityclassic.com/
May 31 – Bowl for the Bull – http://www.gofundme.com/bowlforthebull

Illinois
May 9 – 17th Annual Vernon Hills Brain Tumor Walk – http://www.abta.org/get-involved/events/17th-annual-vernon-hills.html

May 13 – Dine out at Kouri’s in Pekin – https://www.facebook.com/events/840909205993896/
May 15 – 3rd Annual Act for Alan Fundraiser – http://www.abta.org/get-involved/events/3rd-annual-act-for-alan.html
May 17 – Join the Voices 5K in Chicago – http://www.voicesinmotion.org/site/TR?fr_id=1291&pg=entry

May 30 – Cocktails for a Cause – https://myab.co/events/EC/

Iowa
May 1-3 – Lambda Chi Alpha Teeter Totter – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lambda-chi-alpha-teeter-totter-a-thon-for-abta
May 9 – Race for Hope Des Moines – http://www.raceforhopedsm.org/

Kansas
May 3 – Avengers Age of Ultron Movie Screening – http://www.dragonmasterfoundation.org/events/

Massachusetts
May 2 – Brain Tumor Alliance 5k – http://events.braintumoralliance.org/site/TR?fr_id=1160&pg=entry
May 17 – Boston Brain Tumor Ride – http://events.braintumor.org/boston-brain-tumor-ride/

Michigan
May 2 – BT5K – http://hope.abta.org/site/TR?fr_id=3183&pg=entry

Minnesota
May 17 – MN Brain Tumor 5k – http://mnbraintumor5k.com/

Mississippi
May 2 – North Mississippi Kilt Walk & Fun Run – http://www.kiltedforbraintumors.com/

Nevada
May 16 – Desert Gray Matters – http://wizathon.com/walktoendbraintumors-nv/

New Jersey
May 30 – National Walk to End Brain Tumors – http://www.wizathon.com/walktoendbraintumors-nj

New York
May 17 – 11th Annual Team Billy Ride & Walk for Research – http://www.braintumorcommunity.org/site/PageServer?pagename=BTR_SS_Homepage

North Carolina
May 3 – NC Triangle Ride for Kids – http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR?fr_id=1990&pg=entry#.VUMC6mTBzGc

North Dakota
May 24 – National Walk to End Brain Tumors – http://wizathon.com/walktoendbraintumors-nd/

Ohio

May 18 & 19 – Joggin for the Noggin Benefit Dinner – https://www.facebook.com/events/350866698444089/

Pennsylvania

May 1 – Brews for Brains – https://www.facebook.com/events/1377664142561766/

May 2 – Avengers Age of Ultron Movie Screening – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-avengers-age-of-ultron-2015-3d-private-movie-screening-at-king-of-prussia-imax-and-stadium-16-tickets-15957153275

May 24 – BRAINFEST – https://secure2.convio.net/abta/site/Donation2;jsessionid=0C748EA3B0B8BED03111BA4D4F56B5A0.app274b?df_id=6720&6720.donation=landing

Utah
May 25 – National Walk to End Brain Tumors – http://wizathon.com/walktoendbraintumors-utah/

Virginia
May 29 – 3rd Annual Lambda Chi Alumni Clay’s Day – http://akidsbraintumorcure.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=515

Washington DC
May 3 – Race for Hope Washington, DC – http://www.braintumorcommunity.org/site/TR?fr_id=2360&pg=entry

Washington
May 3 – Seattle Brain Cancer Walk – http://www.braincancerwalk.org/
May 16 – BT5K – http://hope.abta.org/site/TR?fr_id=3182&pg=entry

May 30 – Bellingham Brain Cancer Walk – http://braincancerwalk.org/bellingham

It is my hope that these events will inspire you to get involved in awareness events throughout the year – not just in May.

For Auld Lang Syne

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I have an app on my phone called “Time Hop”. It goes back in time to year’s past and pulls out photos from your phone or Facebook to show you a little of your personal history. Today, one of the photos it showed me was of my Facebook statuses from 2010. What struck me was how happy they all were. How thankful. How EARLY in the year. You see, all of the statuses in the picture were from the first eight months of the year. David was diagnosed with cancer in month 9.

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In hindsight, I always wonder if I was thankful enough before cancer entered our world. If I appreciated my kids enough. If I knew how blessed we were in spite of our hardships. Then today I saw this recap of my year before cancer. There’s no doubt that I knew what my blessings were. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I reveled in them when they appeared.

What really struck me, though, was how blissfully unaware we were. We had “normal” problems. The kind that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get through. And then, David got an excruciating headache that led to three weeks in ICU and brain surgery. All the while, we believed that we would just pull together as a family and get through it.

But cancer isn’t always like that. Yes, being positive and fighting hard is important. I believe that it can make a huge difference in treatment and survival, but it is no guarantee. Cancer sneaks in unexpectedly and steals away your normal. To me, that is the most alarming thing. There was no warning.

In some ways life is just like that. You never know what’s around that next curve. The end of the year seems like a good time to look back over those curves and smile where you can, and cry when you must. More importantly, it’s time to look ahead to see what you can do to smooth the curves in the coming year, both for yourself and for those around you.

For me, looking ahead means finding innovative ways to fight cancer. I know David is looking down on us urging us forward. I know that he would see each life as precious and worthy of the fight. As we enter 2015, I hope that you will join us to make a positive change in the world of cancer research.

I Had A Dream…

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Last night I had a dream about an adorable little boy. It was not a child I knew, but I fell instantly in love with him. His mother was unable to care for him, and ultimately he came to live with Richard and I.

He was precious, and we were happy to have him with us. And then suddenly, he couldn’t walk. They told us he had DIPG. And I knew that this little boy we loved would be taken from us far too soon.

They say your dreams are your subconscious trying to work out a problem in real life. To me, this dream meant that even though we really did lose a child to brain cancer, we still feel the emotions of each new diagnosis. Those children are our children. We still fight with that kind of passion, but the key is helping people understand they need to join the fight BEFORE it really is their child.

You’ve seen those commercials, the sick child in the hospital over the holidays. You are thankful for your healthy kids and so you donate. I used to do that, too. And we would contribute to Make-A-Wish and other charities that helped those kids and families. They are good at what they do. But doing what we have been doing for years is not getting us the cures we need.

We want to take the research community and give it a turbo boost. Parents, think about the days when you were in high school. To complete a paper for school, you had to go to a library, look things up on little paper cards, go find a book (that you prayed would be shelved properly), and dig through that book hoping to find the info you needed.

Today’s kids do a quick search on the internet for exactly what they are looking for, and they have their source in moments.

Cancer researchers are stuck in the “library”. They only have access to the info at their local branch, and sometimes the filing system isn’t great. If they have a new idea, the information they want might not be there at all.

We want to change that. We want to build an internet “library” for researchers that will have every piece of information they are looking for. It will be categorized properly, quickly accessible, and updated daily.

We’ve got the foundation. It is housed at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and it currently has genomic and clinical data for pediatric brain cancer patients and their families. Records are being collected from four hospitals right now, but we want more! We truly want this to be a collaborative tool that will help a multitude of researchers at multiple hospitals.

But a resource like this costs a lot of money, and traditional funding sources are inadequate. That’s why we need you. There is nothing that Americans can’t do once they set their mind to it. The ice bucket challenge proves that millions can be raised very quickly, given the proper incentive.

We love our individual donors, and they are a loyal bunch. However, we need to multiply our donors if we are going to truly make a difference. That’s why the #whippingchildhoodcancer challenge is so cool. It isn’t a huge monetary commitment, but it allows you a forum to talk about why you are giving. It can inspire others to do the same. And before you know it, hundreds, or even thousands, of people know about the database and why it is important.

So if you haven’t done it yet, please consider taking a pie to the face for childhood cancer awareness. And make sure you let me know if you do it for Dragon Master Foundation so we can post the video!

P.S.
I know that not all of you are on social media (ahem, Danny!) so here’s a brief recap of the #whippingchildhoodcancer challenge:

Our aim is to raise awareness around the 46 children diagnosed and 7 lost every day to pediatric cancer in the U.S. You have 46 hours to complete the following challenge. You must record a video of yourself taking a pie to the face (can be a paper plate with either whipped cream or shaving cream). Once completing the challenge you must choose a pediatric cancer charity to donate $7 to and tag/challenge 7 friends (46 if you’re feeling bold!) to make their own pie in the face video. If you’re unable to complete the challenge within 46 hours, you must donate $46 and tag/challenge 7 friends.
Be sure to explain the 46/7 statistic in your video. 46 kids diagnosed every day, and 7 die from pediatric cancer.

It’s Kind of a Big Deal

Dragon Master Foundation
Wish I knew who to credit for this pic because it is awesome.

Wish I knew who to credit for this pic because it is awesome.

We get a lot of questions about Dragon Master Foundation, and whenever I have the chance to talk to someone about it, the response is amazing. They always end up saying “Wow, that’s such a big deal!” People are so generous with their support once they understand the project. The problem is, a lot of people don’t understand what we are doing and why it is needed. So I thought I’d take a moment to explain a little bit about what makes this project so special.

When David was sick, we were inside hospitals for days at a time watching people do their jobs. Technology is everywhere – from the patient bedside to databases in some unseen corner of the building. However, all of that technology seems to be locked inside each institution, with very little ability to share information from one hospital to the next.

It is like  being a horse with blinders on. You can only see a small part what’s really out there. You get a myopic view of the world. Unfortunately, that is the world most cancer doctors and researchers face. They long for more information, but it is largely out of their reach.

You may be thinking, “But what about the internet? Can’t they just send their information back and forth?” The short answer is no. Between HIPAA, different technology formats, and the sheer size of data, even the most collaborative hospitals have trouble sharing all the information researchers want to access. Collaboration would mean that a database would quickly need to warehouse petabytes of of information – a task that has only been tackled by the likes of the NSA or Google in the past.

It is an overwhelming task, to be sure, but for the first time in history, it is possible. It is possible to house genetic information and clinical data in one place so that researchers can really see the “big picture” of a patient’s health and furthermore, they can compare that patient to other patients. They can start to see why a drug works for one patient and not another. They can start to make sense out of things that are seemingly random.

It will be four years this September since we were dropped into this cancer world. I’m not a doctor or a researcher, but I’ve talked to as many as I could over that time, and every one of them has said a database like this would be an asset to them. EVERY ONE OF THEM.

And yet, we continue to spend money on tiny projects that help a single researcher or a single hospital. Please don’t misunderstand. Every researcher needs funding. Every hospital needs more help. But this is a situation of not being able to see the forrest for the trees. We need to build an infrastructure for the research data if we ever hope to move at a pace that is faster than cancer.

The good news is, we have made amazing progress. We have joined forces with the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Hospital of Seattle to take the database they are working on and grow it to a scale that can help pediatric and adult patients. The data is already being collected, which is a great and wonderful thing. However, it means that we are already at a place where we need vast amounts of funding in order to continue to grow.

I wake up every morning more sure that this database will change the way they do medical research. I have hope that people will begin to understand the vision that that this database represents, and that they will focus on helping us build it. You ABSOLUTELY CAN make a HUGE difference in the fight against cancer. Please share the mission of Dragon Master Foundation. Like us on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/DragonMasterFoundation ). Follow us on Twitter (@dragonmasterfdn and/or @amandahaddock ). Host a grass-roots fundraising event. Something as simple as dining out at a local restaurant that will donate proceeds can be a huge help with both raising money and raising awareness. Cancer is a beast that is taking lives. You can be a dragon master. Please join us today!

It’s A Revolution, I Suppose

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to meet some women I had previously only known through Facebook. We traveled two and a half hours to meet with about 30 ladies who have all been caregivers to a loved one with brain cancer. It was cathartic, energizing, sad and joyous. They are amazing people.

As I was talking to them, I realized that though we talk a lot on Facebook, they didn’t really know what the Dragon Master Foundation is or what we hope to accomplish. They asked, and I told them my vision for the foundation. They all seemed excited and supportive. They told me their stories – some of which made me downright angry.

I can’t share the stories they shared with me. Those are for them to tell, but I can tell you what I told them.

We started Dragon Master Foundation because of one main incident. We heard Dr. Anna Barker speak last October, and she brought up and quickly dismissed her dream to have thousands of genomes in a database where she could compare the data. It’s a ridiculously large dream for “mere mortals”, but that type of technology is already in use by big business and governments. It’s how the NSA tracks all the phone calls and emails they collect. It’s how Google knows what you bought online and how it suggests other products. It exists. It is not being made accessible to these researchers. Why? Well, it is expensive, for starters. A database the size and scope of what they need will cost millions of dollars. And that is just to build the empty database! Collecting the data that they need to go into the database could potentially cost even more… unless…

What if we could find a way for the existing institutions to work together? What if we could compile all the data they have, make it easier for them to access and study, and then also give them access to thousands of other records? So researchers would go from looking at 50-100 records to looking at several thousand. Patterns would be easier to spot.

The technology exists to do that, but the project is so large that no one has had the funding to use it. That’s where we come in. Dragon Master Foundation is going to build a database that will be accessible to member institutions to use. It will have genome data, but it will also be able to house clinical data, and environmental data.

Precious little is known about what might cause brain cancer. The few available drugs work for some people, some of the time. We need more information available to the researches so they can begin to understand why that is the case. Patients and caregivers frequently credit diet, exercise, and other environmental data as the key to longer survival, but that data isn’t being widely studied. There are so many other factors to keep track of, there simply isn’t room to store that kind of stuff, too.

We want to change all that. We want to build the researcher’s dream database. They need the proper tools to fight this beast. And guess what? Once we compile this kind of data, there is no telling what other implications it may have! This is an investment in our future – our children’s future – and we need your help.

If you know someone who wants to build a better world for research (doctors, scientists, programmers, etc), please tell them about our project. We welcome collaboration, and we plan to be the most valuable resource these doctors and researchers have.

And if you are wondering about the title of this post, go listen to “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. I could write a whole other post on this song and the inspiration I get from this band. Maybe I’ll do that!