Debbie Zelman, President and Founder of Debbie's Dream Foundation (DDF), was diagnosed with Stage IV advanced, incurable stomach cancer in April 2008. At that time she was forty years old, the mother of three young children, married to a physician, and a practicing attorney with her own firm, was only expected to live a few weeks. Debbie began the fight of her life. She had a port placed and began a very aggressive chemotherapy regimen. She spent months in bed, doctors’ offices, and hospitals.
In May 2008, while undergoing treatment, Debbie began activities to raise funds for stomach cancer research and also began speaking with other people who had stomach cancer. It became apparent that there was a great need for a resource like CSC among patients, families, and caregivers all over the world. This was the beginning of Debbie's Dream Foundation, the first organization dedicated to helping stomach cancer patients, raising money for research, and educating the public about stomach cancer. In April 2009 Debbie incorporated the organization and immediately garnered the support of the South Florida community and soon expanded worldwide.
Today, DDF has thirteen chapters, an internationally renowned Medical Advisory Board, prestigious Honorary Board, dedicated Board of Directors, hundreds of volunteers, and thousands of supporters. DDF seeks as its ultimate goal to make the cure for stomach cancer a reality.
Raising Awareness about Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and fourth among women worldwide. Each year nearly 930,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with stomach cancer, and approximately 700,000 die of the disease. Approximately 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with stomach cancer each year, and over 10,000 will die within a year. According to the American Cancer Society, the overall 5-year survival rate for people with stomach cancer in the United States is about 28%, and the 5-year survival rate for stage IV stomach cancer is 4%.
Awareness of stomach cancer, its symptoms, and risk factors remains low despite the fact that it is one of the deadliest cancers and the number two cancer killer in the world. Physician and public awareness are critical for early diagnosis. If people are aware of the risk factors and symptoms, they can be diagnosed at an early stage, which dramatically increases the chance of survival. Two of the most prevalent precursors to stomach and esophageal cancers are H pylori and acid reflux. To help raise awareness about stomach cancer, Debbie Zelman appeared on the Dr. Oz show in a segment titled "The Cancer That is Eating You Alive: Stomach Cancer." She also serves on the National Cancer Institute Esophagogastric Task Force which identifies and promotes the best science in gastric, GE junction, and esophageal cancer clinical research by addressing the design and prioritization of clinical trials.
DDF’s Research and Public Policy Initiatives
Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer continually plans and collaborates on stomach cancer awareness events including symposia with national and community level representation, educational institutions, and worldwide leading healthcare professionals. DDF was instrumental in the introduction of US House Resolution 800 which proposed to designate November 2012 as Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. There is very little research being conducted on stomach cancer for a variety of reasons, including a lack of funding and a limited number of doctors specializing in stomach cancer. Per cancer death, stomach cancer receives the least amount of federal funding of any cancer. Debbie's Dream Foundation strives to increase the treatment options available for stomach cancer patients by directly and indirectly funding stomach cancer research. DDF is committed to advancing stomach cancer research through active advocacy and action.
Providing Help and Support
A cancer diagnosis takes a huge toll on a patient's family. Debbie's Dream Foundation addresses the many issues facing people with stomach cancer, their families and caregivers. DDF is the place to turn to for help when a patient is diagnosed with stomach cancer DDF offers a Patient Resource Education Program (PREP) via a toll-free hotline for patients, families, and caregivers so they can speak with someone in a similar situation to share their stories and resources. DDF also informs patients about clinical trials and helps patients find physicians and treatment facilities. All PREP services are entirely free.
For information about the extraordinary difference Debbie's Dream Foundation is making in the lives of people with stomach cancer, please visit www.DebbiesDream.org or call the toll-free hotline at 1-855-475-1200.