Max Global Experience

The “Last Mile” to Treatment Access: Constantine’s Story

We enter the room of white coats. Cheerful banter and smiles are all around and it’s easy to overlook the frail man in the corner. His name is Constantine. He is from Inhambane, an area approximately 400km from Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

A Long Journey

The distance itself is not so far but the journey is long – 8 hours by public buses and transport. Constantine is a security guard and a father of seven. He has not been feeling well for months now and has symptoms similar to malaria and bilharzia. Unsuccessful treatments at a clinic in his hometown have seen him referred to specialist physicians in the capital city. Presenting with a protruding spleen and increased white blood cell counts, he was finally confirmed to have the Philadelphia chromosome following a bone marrow biopsy. Constantine, like so many others around the world, has a rare form of leukemia called CML (chronic myeloid leukemia).

His Temporary Home

He has made the ward his temporary home and shares the space with four other patients. He does not get many visitors as the trip to Maputo is expensive and simply unaffordable for his family. Life outside the hospital goes on with news filtering in from his wife, children, and grandchildren. He will only be discharged once his white blood cell count comes down and his spleen has returned to normal size. Constantine is now one of 70 leukemia patients seen at the Maputo General Hospital.

The “Last Mile” To Treatment Access

Constantine’s Shoes

For many people facing cancer, the “last mile” in treatment access is a long, expensive, and recurring journey. But in Constantine’s case, even this journey may not be enough. Many low- and lower-middle income countries are celebrating access to second- and third-line treatments through Max Access Solutions, but Mozambique and at least 10 other countries still lack access to any effective medications. I look at the empty shoes next to Constantine’s bed and wonder how far they’ve already carried him to seek help. I can only hope they’ll be able to make the long journey back to Maputo over and over again, and that one day soon, there will be effective medication waiting for him when he gets there.

How You Can Help

At The Max Foundation, we work to bridge gaps in cancer treatment access with Max Access Solutions: our comprehensive patient-centered model for drug donation. Thanks to the generosity of our pharmaceutical partners, the drugs themselves are made available at no cost, but an enormous amount of work is still required to bridge the “last mile” and make them accessible to people in need.

Those “last mile” efforts take many forms. For the patients we support, it’s often a recurring journey to and from a clinic or hospital. For our partners and team members, the “last mile” takes place in customs offices and at ministries of health, on bus-rides to laboratories and site visits to remote clinics. Most importantly, our “last mile” efforts take the form of patient support; working to educate local communities, provide close emotional support, and reduce the stigma surrounding cancer.

With help from supporters like you, we can continue to grow these “last mile” efforts and bridge the gaps in treatment access for people in Africa and beyond. Together, we can realize a world where everyone can face cancer with dignity and hope.

Donate Today!

Join us in August for the Max Global Experience – Uganda!

Ready for an unforgettable summer?

This August, we invite you to join us for the Max Global Experience – Uganda to be part of the African patient journey by walking a mile (or 365!) in the shoes of African cancer survivors who often must travel for miles and even days to access treatment for their cancer.

As a team, we’ll walk the symbolic “last mile” at the source of the Nile river. This “last mile” echoes the many roads, steps, and miles we tread to bring cancer treatment to patients around the world – the most significant of which is the last mile, which ensures that the right medication reaches to the right patient at the right time.

Why Africa?

Africa in its colorful, splendid, chaos is home to over 1.2 billion people, speaking more than 1,500 languages. We live in climates that range from dry desert to humid jungle, yet despite the richness of the land, most people in Africa find themselves poor with relation to specialized healthcare. The outcomes of cancer patients reflect the deficiency of the current healthcare offering and these poor outcomes contribute greatly to the stigma: that cancer kills.

Where resources are available to treat cancer patients, it is often centralized to one specific center within a country or region. Travel to the specialized centers can take hours, up to days, a journey that takes an emotional, physical, and financial toll. It is this journey, which patients across the continent undertake with dedication and hope, that inspires our 2018 Max Global Experience.

Walk the “last mile” with us

In Uganda, overlooking majestic Lake Victoria, you will experience a connection with not only Africa but with the people that make her heart beat. You’ll hear stories from patients that once undertook journeys into the unknown, and are now leaders guiding others along the same path.

Together, we’ll see sights of beauty and sights of real down to earth life. We’ll share in storytelling, dancing, and more as we introduce you to leaders within our patient community and share in walking the “last mile” by their side at the source of the Nile. You’ll feel the roar of African drums in your blood and you’ll leave carrying a light, knowing that you made a difference not only in your own life but also to the lives of people in Africa who are living with cancer.

In 2017, we climbed a mountain. In 2018, join us to walk the “last mile” in Uganda! We will welcome you as a friend and we will greet you as family.

Join Us In Uganda!

Max Climbs Mt. Kinabalu!

Update: Watch our climbers take on Mount Kinabalu in our new video!

We’ve said many times since the inception of Max Global Experience – Mt. Kinabalu that the climb itself is a metaphor for living with cancer, but it all took on a new level of meaning as we set out on July 22nd to finally start the climb we’d been training and planning for.

This climb was not only a physical challenge, but mental and emotional as well. Each of us had to dig deep within ourselves to summon the strength, courage, and determination to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, until we reached base camp and then set out in the dark early hours of July 23rd for the summit.

Each of us had our individual experience with the climb, and at times we climbed silently, working hard for each step and each breath as the altitude increased. But we were not alone – we shared a strong connection and solidarity among our team of 23 that in just a few short days grew close through our shared experience, supporting one another at every turn and celebrating each climber’s milestones along the way.

We also had guides, whose calm and reassuring presence helped us through each twist and turn of the summit trail. Finally, we had our friends and family at home cheering us on individually and collectively, many of whom were donors supporting our fundraising campaigns. For me personally, each climber on our team, every patient I was fortunate to meet and speak with in Malaysia, and each of my supporters back home motivated and inspired me to put everything into my climb!

Reflecting on our climb just a couple of short weeks ago, I still find myself amazed by our team’s hard work, dedication, and heart that they put into every step of this journey. It wouldn’t feel right to talk about only my experience, which would not have been the same without our team. Below are just a sampling of impressions from our other climbers, but you can read more from other team members in Max Family Malaysia’s “The Climb Series” blog and see the full album of photos from the climb on Facebook!

“I remembered the moment, the same exact moment of wanting to quit in the midst of your body falling apart. But again, I didn’t know where it came from, there was an unleashed momentum and burning passion kept pushing and telling me that I got to finish whatever I had agreed to start.” —Dr. Abd Razak Muhamad, CML survivor

“Walking in the dark is just like having CML and not knowing your treatment will be successful or otherwise. It’s just the belief in us and our spiritual and mental strength that say, yeah I can do it, I can reach the summit and I can overcome all the fear and stigma of CML.” —Abu Hurairah, CML survivor

“We were connected through a deeply bonding experience because our lives depended on it. Very much like our cancer survivor friends around the world who come together to support each other as they each climb the mountains ahead of them.” —Erin Schwartz, VP of Strategic Partnerships and Communications

Read Tony Leo’s 10 Year Journey to the Top of Mount Kinabalu

See more from our Mt. Kinabalu trip

Ten Long Years to Climb to the Top

Tony Leo from from Malaysia and living in Singapore inspired The Max Foundation to host our 2017 Max Global Experience in Malaysia to climb Mt. Kinabalu. Tony’s story explains how this climb closes a 10-year-journey of discovering and living beyond his cancer diagnosis.

10 years ago, for my first attempt to climb Mount Kinabalu, I felt prepared. I was a 27-year old living an active lifestyle of soccer and gym and I just started out being a full-time musician and music teacher. I had everything going for me and I thought I could have conquered Mount Kinabalu easily when I went with some teachers and students of a music school.

The first couple of kilometers proved really tough and I began to realize something might be wrong with my body – especially my lungs. It could not only be the altitude as I had no energy to even lift a leg up or get enough air; the strangeness of it engulfed me and it took me a very long 12-hours climb to Laban Rata, the base camp where we would stay the night.

I was very tired and baffled at why it was so difficult. I cried in that darkness when I saw the grounds of Laban Rata. I slept that night after telling myself maybe I shouldn’t continue. But when everyone started waking up to attempt the summit at 1:30 AM, I thought let’s give it a try regardless. I was doing okay until my fear of heights gripped me and I walked back to the camp in the dark, alone and dejected after failing to get over my fear.

When I reached back home, I immediately had a checkup and that’s how I found out my body is wrecked with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). No wonder I struggled so much, my body lacks red blood cells and that’s why it is so tough for me when I tried climbing the mountain.

My hopes were not completely dashed as I was exuberant to find out I can receive very expensive medicinal treatment at no cost thanks to the help of a patient support group called The Max Foundation. Feeling so grateful for the help, I wrote a song, entitled You for Max who I felt paved the way for me and for The Max Foundation CEO, Pat Garcia-Gonzalez. I was soon on the way to recovery and was encouraged to have met many other CML patients and their caregivers as well as the staffs of The Max Family.

Last November, Pat and I recorded a conversation about my story and when we were almost done, Pat had the brilliant idea to climb Mount Kinabalu after revealing to her I failed to reach the summit for the 2nd time that same year! We would do it as part of her birthday fundraising efforts for The Max Foundation. This idea birthed a plan to include another 21 climbers: patients, advocates, partners and even a representative from Novartis!

Ten years later, after gaining life-saving treatment for my CML through The Max Foundation, and feeling much better (and happier, and thus, fatter), I was ready to take on Kinabalu again.

On this climb, the all too familiar tracks, the all too familiar signboards and scenery greeted me but, thank God, this time we had beautiful weather. I am much more prepared (been hiking and cycling 2-3 times weekly) and I had a game plan: to take each step whether up or down, slow and steady and to enjoy the view. The climb was interestingly easy and enjoyable this time while I kept my breathing regulated and I managed to reach Laban Rata this time in six hours with lots of energy and laughter to spare!

The next day in the early morning, I applied the same technique and I slowly but surely climbed up and reached the last station within an hour. I continued climbing and reached the summit in the next 2 hours! 😄

Oh, the view is beautiful at the peak. I was in awe of the creation of this quiet, steady mountain but it cannot match the feeling of exuberance I had. Finally, after 10 years, I managed to reach the summit!

I am eternally grateful to God who helped me along the way and to my family and friends and especially Pat, everyone at The Max Foundation, The Max Family patient group in Malaysia, the other patients and partners who cheered for me along the way.

Oh, the feeling of conquering the mountain finally is answered but this time, with so much more respect to the ever-steady mountain of life that has taught me to be humble, alerting me to the web of support that exists and feeling the love of unity with similar purpose!

Thank you for letting me experience, learn and enjoy the process!

Maybe another song might come out of this “mountain”…

Hear from others about their Mount Kinabalu climb See more from our Mt. Kinabalu trip

Scaling New Heights!

We’re getting ready to climb Mt. Kinabalu in a little less than a month! Over the past several months, we have been training, fundraising, and preparing to conquer Mt. Kinabalu, and now we’re counting down the days until our team meets at the foot of the mountain for the big climb. Why climb a mountain, you might ask? This climb is as literal as it is symbolic, and was inspired by the journey of patient and longtime friend Tony, whose cancer journey began after trying to climb Mt. Kinabalu 10 years ago.

This July, Tony will join our team of climbers, each one fundraising to support The Max Foundation’s work in Malaysia, helping people face their cancer diagnosis with dignity and hope. The funds we raise together will make it possible to offer support and education programs for patients, raise awareness of early diagnosis and treatment access, and to develop and train leaders and advocates, broadening access to treatment and support for people living with cancer.

Support our work in Malaysia – donate to one of our climbers today! The Max Foundation’s CEO, Pat Garcia-Gonzalez, has set an ambitious goal of raising $25,000. Will you help her reach her goal? Donate to her fundraiser.

My birthday campaign and the promise of a lifetime

For my birthday, I’m climbing Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia with my friends and patient survivors! And I need your support!

In 2005 when I took over the direction of The Max Foundation, I made one promise: to work as hard as I could and be as smart as I can, for as long as I can be of service to the organization. I thought I was giving all I had and then three years ago I realized there was more I could give: my birthday. Donating my birthday to The Max Foundation was one of the best decisions I have made, turning an otherwise gloomy moment (how old am I now?) into an exciting, hopeful and meaningful event beyond myself.

Now to this year’s birthday campaign, stats, and plans. My age: On July 28th I will turn 59 years old. The plans: to climb Mt Kinabalu in Malaysia on July 22-23 with an awesome group of colleagues, patient survivors and friends. My goal: to raise $25,000 USD on behalf of The Max Foundation. My ask: will you please donate and make my birthday wish come true?

I have never climbed a mountain before so one might ask why. The best answer I can find is in a quote from JFK in his Moon speech: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” The truth is that we have been in this life journey together, those we call patients and those we call advocates, for more than a decade; and the reality is that we are one, united by a deep bond of love, and together we will conquer Mt Kinabalu.

I am grateful for your support and promise to give it my all. Learn more about Mt Kinabalu and please support me and donate now.


Announcing the Max Global Experience – Mt. Kinabalu!

Join us this summer in Malaysia! In July 2017, a team of partners, cancer survivors, and friends like you will join us from the USA, Malaysia, and beyond to embark on an adventure with a common goal: raising funds to carry out our work supporting cancer patients in Malaysia. Along the way, we’ll meet with patients, learn about The Max Foundation’s work in the Asia Pacific region, and climb Mt. Kinabalu.

Will you join us? Learn more about this exciting and meaningful adventure.

This Max Global Experience was inspired by our friend Tony Leo’s cancer journey. Tony first realized that something was wrong with his health 10 years ago as he attempted to climb Mt. Kinabalu, but was forced to turn back before reaching the summit.

Today, we’re glad to see Tony living well with cancer thanks to the treatment and support he receives through The Max Foundation. In 2017, we look forward to conquering Mt. Kinabalu by his side! Do you want to climb with us? Whether you’re an adventure-seeking mountaineer or prefer to stay closer to sea level, you can join us this summer, and give dignity and hope to people in Malaysia facing cancer by raising funds for their support. We look forward to bringing new and old friends closer to our work through this once in a lifetime experience – contact us today for more information on how to join us this July!

Follow the Patient Journey

Join Rosario as she shares her journey from cancer patient to advocate and leader.
See Rosario's Journey