It was impossible for me to ignore the impact traveling for my photo project had on myself and those closest to me. Seeing first hand the devastation that cancer causes around the world left me feeling compelled to do more than just tell stories and take photos about it. In so many of the countries I visited I saw a tremendous void in awareness and education about cancer, and there were minimal to non-existent support networks in place. I have met so many people that were doing what they could to help others battling cancer, why couldn’t I? So, last September I applied for and received 501 (c)(3) status for Global Focus on Cancer (GFC), a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness, providing support and creating a global network of communication for cancer patients, cancer survivors and their caregivers throughout the world. With GFC our hope is to make education and awareness about cancer accessible to the general public, decrease the stigma surrounding cancer, encourage early treatment and increase cancer survivor-ship in countries where access to information about cancer is critically lacking.
We are launching our first initiative this Monday in Vietnam. We will be partnering with the doctors and survivors we met there in December 2010 to help expand the scope of the only cancer support group in the country, the Breast Cancer Club(BCC) of Hanoi. We will be working with them to help establish 2 new support groups at the oncology hospitals in Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City as well as an additional support group in HCMC for families of children with cancer. Michael Doyle, an American who has been living in Vietnam for the past 20 years and battling cancer himself for the last 3 years, recently founded the Kids With Cancer Foundation of Vietnam. Mike contacted me a few months ago to say the my blog and the video that my husband Chris and I made about the conditions for cancer patients in Vietnam motivated him to create the foundation.
Once again I find myself starting out on a new path with a new role to play, this time as the director of a non-profit, trying to raise awareness and expand education about cancer. I am going to quote from my very first blog post “This project is incredibly daunting to me. I am so excited but absolutely petrified that I won’t be able to pull this off, that I don’t have the eye for it, or that I won’t do it justice, but I feel compelled to do this project. I have been waiting for an opportunity to do something for the past 3 1/2 years that would express how I feel about having cancer and recovering from it. I am a big believer in going with your gut, and my gut has a great feeling about this, let’s just hope that my mind gets in line!” It is a bit different now, but the sentiment is the same. I continue on this road that cancer has led me down. I see my having had cancer now as an opportunity, almost as a gift. It has helped me grow in ways I never could have imagined and given me more strength than I thought I could ever have. I will return home in time to celebrate my 6th year anniversary of being cancer free. It’s going to be a party!!!