In my post of October 10th, I said I was going to talk about my latest advocacy venture. Here goes!

After publishing my web site, I became involved with many diagnosed with appendix cancer who emailed me after discovering my site. I’ve also communicated with those who have abdominal cancers of origins besides appendiceal cancer and who often seek the same treatments from the same specialists. They deal with all of the same issues those of us diagnosed with appendix cancer deal with. Except for cancer origin, all of our issues are the same. We all have “peritoneal surface malignancies“, or advanced abdominal cancers.

My email communications now number in the thousands (I REALLY need to learn to type!). I’ve used hundreds of cell minutes talking to the newly diagnosed, and I now use Skype to communicate with some internationally. I’ve communicated with patients from all over the United States and all over the world including people from Norway, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Asia and even the Aland Islands (had never hear of them, they are islands off of the coast of Finland). The Internet is amazing in the ability it gives us to reach into distant lands. In my quest for up-to-date information I’ve also communicated with many of the elite surgical oncologists who treat these cancers. I’ve been amazed at how generous they have been with their time and resources.

Sometimes all of these activities, in addition to maintaining my blog and site, have taken about 20-30 hours a week of my time. I have never minded that use of my time; I am blessed to be able to use my life in that way. Before and after my cancer diagnosis, I had struggled with a need to find meaning and purpose in my life; I feel I’ve found my purpose now in the cancer community.

I met a new friend through my involvement with the American Cancer Society, turns out she is a business consultant in her real life. She knew the work I did, and suggested I might turn my passion into my profession. At the same time, the husband of another patient who was a business entrepreneur and who lived across the country (and who didn’t know anything of the other conversation) suggested the same and introduced me to the founder of a cancer non-profit nearby in Chicago. Another woman found my web site and said I reminded her of someone who had started out just like I had as a patient advocate and had gone on to found the Kidney Cancer Association that now serves thousands diagnosed with kidney cancer. I was suddenly all at once inundated with that suggestion through many unrelated sources. It was almost spooky. My daughter said “Mom, do you think God is trying to tell you something?”.

The idea of a business venture and social entrepreneurship was totally out of my realm of experience and knowledge, but I started to consider it. And all of the sudden I was given resources to help me achieve that end. The business friend introduced me to the Entrepreneur Center at a local college and to people who were successful social entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur center suggested I take a business class for entrepreneurs that was just starting and still accepting students. From that point on, doors have amazingly opened one after another in ways I never would have expected or anticipated. I love the saying “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the call”. I suddenly was being equipped in an overwhelming way.

In the end I founded a non-profit organization, the Abdominal Cancer Connection. It’s a project that’s been my passion for about a year now. I actually have a board of directors and am chairman of a board! We recently had our first meeting. The woman I met through the American Cancer Society has supported me and helped me unendingly. An accountant with non-profit experience has donated time to helping me and agreed to be on my board. An attorney I met and just love helped me at a discounted rate file the paperwork to become 501c3, my organization is now officially a tax exempt charity. So far two renowned HIPEC surgeons have agreed to be on my advisory board, there are several others I want to approach. The American Association of Cancer Research allowed me to unveil my non-profit as part of their Scientist Survivor Program at their annual meeting in San Diego this year. It’s been an amazing ride.

My latest hurdle in developing my organization has been to develop a web site and web presence. I got some estimates….$2000-3000 for professional design of the site I wanted, and those quotes were the discounted rates for non-profits. Though I’ve donated a few thousand dollars in setting up the organization and have received help from family and friends, I was unable to afford professional help for web site design. I have one daughter who just started college and another starting next year, so that’s where my personal financial resources are going now. I constructed my own initial web site, but what I need for the organizational web site is beyond my ability.

I tried calling local universities to ask that maybe my site could be taken on as a class project, or asked if a student might be willing to donate their time, but without response. I made several calls looking for someone who might donate their time, no response. Then I received an email recently from a professional web site designer and software consultant, he had been the person I’d most wanted to do my web site back when I was obtaining quotes. His father had just been diagnosed with cancer so he contacted me about his dad. He knew from past communication with me that I was developing an organization and hoped to have a web site professionally done at some later date. In our communication he said he’d looked at my site and noticed I hadn’t updated it yet to represent my organization. Did I need a web designer? If I did, he’d do my site for me for free. Wow, another door opened. We met to discuss the site this week. He also has a connection to a graphic designer who can help us. We set an official launch date for the web site as February. Amazing.

I’m sorry about the length of this post. I have a lot more to say about the organization and will post more about it in upcoming posts. Stay with me!