Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer (DDF) was founded in 2009 by Debbie Zelman after she was diagnosed with stage IV incurable gastric cancer in 2008 and given only weeks to live. In the course of searching for treatment options, she quickly learned how difficult this disease is to detect and treat and that the outcome is often grim. Fortunately, working closely with healthcare providers in academic and community settings, Debbie was able to establish a Scientific and Medical Advisory Board for the foundation, with the ultimate goal of providing the latest information and best resources for patients, caregivers, and family members.
When patients are first diagnosed, the available information can be confusing or overwhelming. DDF offers reliable educational information through a free Patient Resource Education Program (PREP), which helps patients and their families understand their diagnosis, staging, treatment options, clinical trials, side effect management, research, management of the disease, and more. PREP can also connect patients and their families with vital information from the world's leading stomach cancer doctors to receive the best care available. PREP provides this information through educational symposia, live informational webinars, and a mentor program.
Patient navigators, nurse navigators, and oncology nurses can refer their patients to PREP as a reliable source, especially since healthcare providers are frequently short on time, and may not be able to answer all of the patients’ questions. Programs like PREP lead to more informed patients, which can lead to better care and outcomes.
DDF also held the first-ever Stomach Cancer Patient Education Symposium in 2011 and has since held annual symposia across the country featuring informative lectures by world-renowned healthcare providers in the field. Through the relationships that Debbie formed with her medical team, DDF has teamed up with the top researchers, oncology physicians and oncology nurses who inform the stomach cancer community on the latest in research, treatments, surgical options, genomic testing, nutrition, survivorship and more.
Additionally, DDF began hosting informational live webinars in 2014. Experts in the field inform the stomach cancer community on topics such as nutrition, legal issues, clinical trials, caring for younger patients with gastric cancer and more. All webinars are also available on DDF’s website for viewers who were unable to attend the live webcast.
Nurses can also refer their patients to the in-house mentor program, which provides support for patients, families, and caregivers. Inquirers are matched with a PREP mentor for one-on-one support and to share knowledge and learn from each other’s experiences. Upon receiving a stomach cancer diagnosis, patients, families, and caregivers are encouraged to request a mentor. Mentors share their stories, tips, advice, and concerns with each other, and so that they will not be alone in their fight. Currently, on the panel of mentors, DDF has two oncology nurses who lost their mothers to stomach cancer. Although they do not provide medical advice in this capacity, their careers were impacted by their losses, which encouraged them to pursue higher education and research in the cancer community.
Debbie is considered a pioneer by many for bringing awareness to the plight of stomach cancer patients worldwide, as well as to the lack of federal funding for stomach cancer research. DDF held the first-ever stomach cancer Capitol Hill Briefing in Washington, D.C. and has held the Annual Stomach Cancer Capitol Hill Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. since 2013. These advocacy efforts have resulted in millions of dollars in increased federal stomach cancer research funding. DDF also directly funds stomach cancer research and encourages young scholars to pursue stomach cancer research opportunities. To date, DDF has funded $1,000,000 in research. Debbie did all of this while receiving hundreds of rounds of chemo, in addition to daily oral treatments. Debbie passed away on December 23, 2017, at the age of 50, almost a decade later. DDF will continue to work with the top researchers, physicians, and nurses to bring the most up to date information to the stomach cancer community. DDF strives to continue Debbie's mission and to make her dream a reality.
To learn more about the organization, please visit our website: https://Debbiesdream.org