Announcing the 2016 Excellence in Patient Advocacy Award!

Each year, The Max Foundation selects a colleague to receive our Excellence in Patient Advocacy Award, honoring a member of our global team who has done something especially remarkable that year. On December 17th, we were delighted to present this year’s Excellence in Patient Advocacy Award to Viji Venkatesh, Region Head for South Asia, for her tireless dedication to the patients she serves.

In this work, we are diligently preparing for the possibility of unexpected changes that force us to do something extraordinary for our patients.. This year, Viji found herself in just this situation, when a new government-imposed import tax threatened patients’ access to life-saving cancer treatment.

For months, Viji has tirelessly advocated with government officials on behalf of the 18,000 patients she serves in India. These patients remain at the forefront of her mind as she works to preserve access to their life-saving medicine. Viji is an example to us all in her relentless and courageous efforts on behalf of her patients. We were pleased to recognize her efforts and dedication with this award, and are grateful to have her fierce devotion to her patients as an inspiration for every member of our global team.

Researching CML Patients in India

A new study in Clinical Epidemiology and Global Health features the Glivec®Patient Assistance Program (GIPAP) and reveals that “chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML) is diagnosed at an earlier age in poorer populations than in more affluent populations.” The study focused on India’s CML population to investigate other possible contributors to early age at onset. The team of authors include our very own South Asia Region Head Viji Venkatesh, and Max CEO Pat Garcia-Gonzalez, as well as Paul H. Levine, Kunal Ajmera, Brenna O’Neill, Heather J. Hoffman.

The study is only available to the public for a limited time so if you know a physician or researcher that would benefit from this study, share it today!

Read the Article

Gratitude for Our Global Community

During this Thanksgiving holiday in the US, we take time to reflect and give thanks with family and friends. We extend a most heartfelt thank you to our donors, partners, our global team, and community. Each of you is part of our patients’ journey, and we are thankful for your support and friendship. We look forward to continuing our journey together, and hope you will continue to follow our patients’ journeys in the coming year.

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and our sincere gratitude this holiday season for your continued support!

Donate and support the patient journey!

Stories of Dignity and Hope: India and Philippines

Throughout the month of October, as we celebrate the Maximize Life Campaign, we’ve invited team members to share stories of dignity and hope from patients and caregivers. We share these stories so they may inspire you to raise your voice, fight the stigma cancer carries, and offer hope to all. Read the first post and second post in this series.

Storytelling in India

Shared by the South Asia Team

The following story comes from a caregiver out of our Storytelling Workshop, which forms the bedrock of our belief in the therapeutic value of sharing stories.

Cancer survivors like my mom are real heroes, not many people have the courage to look at death in the eye and say CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!!!

In November 2011, my parents and I started for our native place to attend a family wedding. We were enjoying ourselves and my mom looked fit as a fiddle. But the very next day she started feeling weak and dizzy. We all assumed that it was due to the fatigue of five long days of wedding celebration. But we were soon proven wrong when her condition deteriorated further and she could barely walk.

Once back in Mumbai, we managed to take her to local hospital, where Dr. Shishir Shetty found that a tumor in her stomach was malignant and my mom urgently needed an operation.

That was a doomsday for us.

But my mom showed tremendous courage. The operation was not easy, but her willpower was tremendous during this phase. Soon after, she was on treatment thanks to The Max Foundation.

My family members urged me to marry during this time, saying, “If anything happened, my mom would at least see me settling down.” But my mom was against it. She wanted her daughter to finish her studies and stand on her feet. During this time, she was worried about my welfare. Her battle for survival was more for me! She knew that her daughter needed her.

Today I stand high, completing my graduation because my mom was there for me, smiling despite all her agony. Thanking her is the least I can do! Her survival and struggle has made me grow as a person and understand the unconditional love of a mother.

Cancer played the role of a bonding agent in my family’s story.

Jhonnel from Philippines

Shared by the Asia Pacific Team

Jhonnel was diagnosed with CML at the age of 12 – a total shock for a child who is so passionate to learn and play. Jhonnel recalled how that year marked his most confusing moments. His family had been greatly affected, not only financially but also emotionally. As a young boy, he persistently searched for answers for things that were difficult to understand. He was a silent participant during the patient gathering.

But during the 2015 Maximize Life Campaign, Jhonnel bravely shared his story to hundreds of patients and caregivers. His perspective on life eventually changed. Through his testimonial, he came to realize his needs are not greater or special in any way. The Maximize Life Campaign event brought out the best in him. Today, he’s one of the many hardworking volunteers of Touched by Max, our regional patient advocacy organization. He is proud to inspire people because of his medical condition. He is passionate to help and continues to share his God-given talents to the patient group. His transformation from being a shy member to becoming an active and highly-motivated volunteer has brought positive energy to the group!

Stories of Dignity and Hope: South Africa and Thailand | Maximize Life Campaign 2016

Throughout the month of October, as we celebrate the Maximize Life Campaign, we’ve invited team members to share stories of dignity and hope from patients and caregivers. We share these stories so they may inspire you to raise your voice, fight the stigma cancer carries, and offer hope to all. Read the previous post in the series.

Ka from Cambodia

Shared by the Asia Pacific Team

When Ka came to Thailand for access to treatment, she had the chance to join the MaxSmiles patient group meetings. Ka started to dream about having her own meetings and soon found support from Dr. Mary Cluck, an Australian volunteer working with Cambodian CML patients. Ka stepped up and called the patients one-by-one to invite them to their first patient meeting.

On January 11th 2013, Ka’s first patient meeting was underway! We offered MaxSmiles T-shirts and bags to all in attendance. There was a patient education session from Dr. Mary (as they call her in Cambodia) in Khmer language, and there was Q&A session. Lunch was traditional Khmer food, prepared with love by Ka’s mother. Ka’s friends even sang a song they wrote which became the group theme song! On that day, Max Miracle was founded in Cambodia.

As I always say, Ka never gives up! She does anything to make her dreams come true. She made history with Max Miracle by being one of the first patient groups for CML patients in Cambodia!

The Memorial Wall in South Africa

Shared by the Africa & Middle East Team

During the 2010 Maximize Life Campaign, The Max Foundation in South Africa created a message board within one of the largest libraries in Pretoria. The objective of the wall was for members of the public to write messages of encouragement and hope to those living with cancer. Following the campaign, the messages would be distributed to cancer patients and caregivers and posted on The Max Foundation website – spreading hope and decreasing isolation.

Spending time at the wall I soon realized that a secondary objective was reached. People were not only writing messages, but they were openly engaging in dialogue with those around them, all sharing stories about cancer. The wall was no longer a static receiver of messages, it had become an active encourager of cancer conversations amongst strangers. Behind every short message was a longer story to be told, people want to talk about cancer. We are all affected by cancer, and platforms such as the Maximize Life Campaign not only allow us to gather as strangers for a cause, but leads us to being friends in victory.

Around the World for Max’s Day!

It was an amazing 24 hours! To celebrate Max’s birthday anniversary, we went around the world through Facebook Live to visit each regional office, meet special friends, and learn how each of us contributes to caring and supporting people facing cancer. Never before has our team felt so close and united.

Watch each of the six Facebook Live recordings below to celebrate this brilliant team of advocates!

Live in Singapore

Our dear friend and CML patient, Tony Leo kicked things off on October 19 in Singapore! Tony shared a bit about his journey and experience with cancer. He also gave a special performance of his song, You, dedicated to Max’s legacy through The Max Foundation.

Live from Malaysia: Celebrating Max's Day!

We're traveling around the world with Facebook Live! First up, Tony Leo, a CML patient and musician, shares the story behind the song You and gives a special performance live!

Posted by The Max Foundation on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Live in Thailand

Next we head to Thailand, where our Asia Pacific team members interview a patient who gives back to the MaxSmiles community by cooking large servings of delicious Thai dishes for patients. It’s a testimony of the power of hospitality and kindness.

Live from Thailand: Celebrating Max's Day!

Our Thailand team shares how hospitality and kindness are simple but powerful ways to make a difference in the lives of people facing cancer.

Posted by The Max Foundation on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Live in India

Over in India, our South Asia regional office join in the fun with a wonderful skit showing the patient journey through cancer. Community is key when you’re faced with a cancer diagnosis, and the South Asia team is creating committed networks of patients throughout the region.

Live from India: Celebrating Max's Day

The Max Foundation team in India joins us on Facebook Live to share how people in India are facing cancer with dignity and hope. In the journey of life, no one expects to get cancer – but that doesn't mean the story is over!

Posted by The Max Foundation on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Live from Kenya

In Kenya, Lucy represents our Africa & Middle East region and is joined by patient advocates who have gone above and beyond their cancer diagnosis in order to help others face cancer with dignity and hope. They also brought out a beautiful cake decorated by a local patient!

Live from Kenya : Celebrating Max's Day!

From our Nairobi, Kenya team, we hear how cancer patients are combating stigma and raising their voices to support and care for everyone facing cancer!

Posted by The Max Foundation on Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Live in Argentina

Our Latin America team was represented by Vicky and Melisa in our Buenos Aires office. Together, they shared their love to all in the region and around the world. They also led us through a special mindfulness exercise to focus our attention and energy!

Live from Argentina: Celebrating Max’s Day!

Our Latin America team in Buenos Aires shows how they care for patients in the region by leading us in guided mindfulness. They also share a tour of the office and how they offer support and care to others.

Posted by The Max Foundation on Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Live in the USA

Finally, we cap off our very full day with a celebration in our Seattle headquarters. Team members and friends gathered to watch the live streams of the day and Pat took to Facebook Live to reflect on Max’s legacy. We also revealed the winner of this year’s Excellence in Patient Advocacy award – congratulations to Viji Venkatesh, South Asia Region Head!

Live from Seattle: Celebrating Max's Day!

We visit The Max Foundation headquarters to join the celebration with friends and team members! Pat offers her thoughts on the day and reflects on the legacy of Max. She also awards one team member with the Excellence in Patient Advocacy award!

Posted by The Max Foundation on Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Each October 19th, We Remember Max on the Anniversary of His Birthday

Max, today we remember you on the anniversary of your birthday. October 19th is, and forever will be your day, Max’s Day. Today is a day filled with joy, love, and hope; a day we celebrate your life and honor your spirit, still shining bright through so many people in all corners of the world.

It’s all because of you, I can face another day.

This sentiment was shared by our dear friend Tony from Malaysia, a cancer survivor and singer songwriter who wrote a song in our honor which he simply titled, ‘You’. Tony’s lyrics talk about the one who goes before us, and whose journey made our lives today better.

My friends, Tony’s song is a wonderful homage to Max and to those who carry on his memory, and it is also a great reminder of the power each of us has to be that person who faces life’s toughest challenge, not thinking just about themselves but rather thinking of others.

Max has inspired hundreds if not thousands of survivors to live outward facing lives of action in the face of their cancer diagnosis. Together, during the month of October, in 44 different events held in 36 countries they are recreating Max’s legacy over and over again, in perpetuity.

In honor of Max’s Day, we reflect and ask ourselves, “What am I doing to be that ‘you’ in Tony’s song? Where is my opportunity to create an outward facing journey?” Please consider helping others face cancer with dignity and hope by making a charitable gift in Max’s honor.

I am forever grateful to each patient, caregiver, colleague, partner, sponsor, friend and supporter who carries on Max’s memory as a symbol of love and hope.

Yours truly, Pat

Leave your message of gratitude and support in the comments below.

Stories from the Frontlines of Cancer | Maximize Life Campaign 2016

The Maximize Life Campaign is a chance for people facing cancer to raise their voice and fight stigma about cancer. This year, we asked our regional teams to share stories of patients and caregivers that have inspired their work. We kick things off with Latin America.

Antonia was three years old when she was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, and four years old when she attended her first Maximize Life Campaign event in Nicaragua, organized by the local patient group Fundación Alas de Vida in October 2014. The event consisted of a patient meeting, the biggest meeting the organization hosts each year, where patients and caregivers from all over the country gathered to support each other and share their stories and experiences regarding their diagnosis. Little did they know at that time that one of the strongest supporters present in the meeting would be Antonia, with her young age and her love for life.

Her mother, Fernanda, was the one who initially volunteered to provide her testimony – she talked about how this diagnosis impacted the family in a way they had never expected and how, despite everything, Antonia herself was the one who became the driving force of her parents.

Fernanda’s testimony inspired everyone present, but what was most surprising was the testimony that followed – Antonia’s: “Hello, my name is Antonia, and I am happy to be here!”

After getting to know her, every member of Alas de Vida adopted Antonia as their own example to follow. She became The Princess, the little warrior who spreads optimism in the group.

Last year, Antonia was diagnosed with malignant cells in her brain and she received radiotherapy. So far, her prognosis is good, and she was able to attend the 2015 Maximize Life event together with her friends in the patient organization, where she had her photo taken with everyone.

Currently, Antonia is travelling to Mexico to receive treatment. On behalf of The Max Foundation, we wish for her to recover like we know she will, and to continue showing the world that Maximo can be a Princess, too.

Raising Our Collective Voices to Support People Living with Cancer Worldwide

October is here! And with the changing of the seasons comes the official start of the 2016 Maximize Life Global Cancer Awareness Campaign! Energy and excitement are growing as over 40 Max Global Network partners across Latin America, Asia and Africa prepare to host multiple awareness events throughout the month in an effort to support and raise awareness about the needs of people living with cancer. 2016 marks the eighth year of the Campaign, which has proven year after year to provide a supportive and meaningful outlet for patients and caregivers to share their stories with their community, and most importantly, with others facing similar challenges.

Creating open dialogue around the cancer experience is critical to increasing hope for people impacted by cancer and awareness about the needs of people living with cancer in their community. The Maximize Life Campaign is about spreading this message and encouraging community conversations about cancer. I speak for my colleagues when I say that all of us at The Max Foundation are honored and humbled by the outpouring of community support cancer patients and personal sharing that we witness from our partners each year through the Campaign.

This year, the Maximize Life Campaign will kick off on October 1st, with patient-centered awareness events to take place in Chile, Taiwan, Mongolia and China. 40 additional events will be held worldwide through October 31st. Make sure to follow The Max Foundation’s Facebook and Twitter (@stompoutcancer) for regular event updates from partners and photos. If you post Campaign related photos, make sure to use the hashtag #MaximizeLife2016! I also encourage you to visit the Maximize Life Campaign website where you can view an interactive map of the events scheduled throughout the month, photos from past events and peruse the Maximize Life Essay Collection for inspiration.

Thank you to all our brave and determined partners who continue to make the Maximize Life Campaign a source of inspiration for people facing cancer in your communities. Stay tuned for story highlights from advocates throughout the month and happy October!

Not Just a Diagnosis, Cancer Touches so Many Lives

Cancer is a life-changing event; not just a medical condition. It changes your priorities, causing you to make different life choices.

People facing cancer sometimes choose to delay their treatment in order to send their children to school. That is what is being observed by Dr. Ong from the Hematology Department of Hospital Ampang, one of the important people behind the inception of The Max Schooling Project (or Sambung Sekolah in Malay) in 2014.

“This project is to make the children feel they are not different from their friends. For example, they could also go to the school trip. They deserve to enjoy the same school experience.”

“We’re also giving a chance to the community to help these children who are normally unnoticed,” Dr. Ong added.

Through the Max Schooling Project, hospital physicians refer children to The Max Foundation’s Malaysia team. The Max Foundation matches children with an ‘adopter’ who coordinates financial assistance on a monthly basis for the child. The Max Foundation carries out regular follow-up contact with the enrolled child and their family to provide financial and emotional support.

I have the opportunity to call all the families on the monthly basis. One of the families is Kak Ida’s. We have talked on the phone for 9 months now. Every month, I will chit-chat with Kak Ida. Her only child is one of the 7 children who are the early beneficiaries of the project. If I am lucky, I manage to talk briefly with her shy son, Ahmad.

The pain from her chemotherapy treatment that made her sleepless, and her vomiting blood with the chest pain, she told me all through our monthly phone calls. Her openness shows she is the right person to speak before the Maximize Life Campaign audiences.

It was a quiet Wednesday morning in August, we finally met for the first time. Amid the nervousness, I greeted her, quietly standing behind her is Ahmad. She smiled a charming smile. In the next hour, she shared about her journey, when it started, how far she has come.

Being diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma (a type of blood cancer) since 2012, she is not only a cancer survivor but a single mother to her teen son, Ahmad. He was only 12 years old that time, and cancer was like an alien. He was only aware that his mother was sick, dressed in a hospital gown for 6 months. He was taken care by his grandmother during the difficult time.

Kak Ida is a sole breadwinner — working at a factory, his teen son is still in high school, taking care of her sick parents, they are all living in the humble flat.

I asked her how she reacted to the cancer diagnosis.

“Treatment cost, how would I manage that?” Her doctor referred her to the hospital social department to ease the financial burden.

“My son, he is the motivation for me to keep going. I will do my best to take care of you, even though you’re being abandoned by your father,” her voice was breaking into sobs and tears rolled down her cheeks.

I paused. I reached for her hands and squeezed them gently.

She also confessed that she planned to quit her job after being hospitalized for 6 months. She felt guilty. She has been working in the factory for 8 years that time. But her diagnosis could not change the fact that she is a good employee. Her employer not only visited her in the hospital and talked with her doctor, they also assured her she could stay working and seeking treatment.

Now, after four years, she knows her health should be prioritized. She trusts her doctors and is compliant to improve her health. She wants to do the best for her son and her parents. Every time she goes to the hospital, Ahmad will accompany her. He wants to make sure his mother is not fainting, especially during the bus ride to the hospital.

Ahmad is a lanky boy with a bit tanned complexion. Throughout my conversation with his mother, I noticed he was listening attentively.

“How do you feel knowing your mother has cancer?” I asked him.

“I feel sad seeing my mother in pain.”

His answer reminded me of love, by its nature, is unconditional. As we finished talking, I realized Ahmad has become more opened. He shared his dreams to become a policeman and to represent Malaysia in Sepak Takraw.

I gain a deeper understanding of how cancer touches more than a patient. It can be very difficult for some people to understand the needs of people living with cancer. But Kak Ida’s willingness to share her testimony in this year Maximize Life Campaign can increase the local community awareness and the support for people living with cancer.

And through it all, a cancer survivor like Kak Ida remains a loving daughter and mother. Having cancer doesn’t define her. Max Schooling Project reminds us that the care is ultimately delivered at the individual level “Who is this person I’m speaking with?”

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