Latin America

Solidarity Ties Through the Mountains

Nestled in the mountains of Peru, there’s a place called Cusco where you’ll find the cancer patient group, Lazos Solidarios (Solidarity Ties). Yusef Herrera, created Lazos Solodarios to help cancer patients in this remote region in 2009 and today, the organization is supporting families facing CML and LLA, many of them children. Yusef, a dentist, became a committed advocate to close the cancer divide between these rural communities and their access to treatment and support.

In the beginning, there were many national security problems in an area dominated by drug dealers and terrorists. People were unprotected and scared, and a cancer diagnosis the last worry they needed. Yusef was joined by an economist and physician, and together, they worked to change the quality of life of the rural farmers, taking them out of illegal activities and guiding them through the process of coffee exportation. Farmers were empowered by the new trade and families benefitted from health and awareness campaigns that improved their well-being.

In 2009, they turned their focus on the city of Cusco, developing solidarity jobs with a group of teenagers in hospitals. They decided to create an organization with the objective of developing solidarity among the villages of Peru. That was the birth of Lazos Solidarios.

During 2010, they worked in the childhood leukemia unit of Antonio Lorena Hospital, a hospital in Cusco for people who need primary care, mainly farmers. They organized playful activities for children and their parents. Yusef also developed activities that would encourage blood donation. Little by little, they made strides in their efforts to support the hospital’s leukemia unit.

This year, Yusef found himself in a difficult situation at a hospital in Lima. Children from Cusco had to travel to Lima to do PCR tests to ensure their cancer treatment was working properly. These children were living at the hospital because they couldn’t afford to pay for accommodation in Lima. Some of these patients were working by selling candies at the hospital’s entrance and corridors.

Yusef and his team had to address the situation. They decided to make the 20-hour car-ride journey to transfer the samples themselves from Cusco to Lima as many times as necessary. Yusef has also started the process to transport biological samples by airway, currently being considered by the Peruvian Congress.

Meanwhile, Lazos Solidarios continues to fulfill its mission, working in favor of prevention and promotion against cancer and bridging the cancer divide to bring dignity and hope in the face of cancer.

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

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.

Congratulations to the 2015 Maximize Life Essay Contest Winners!

Essay winners Saliou Diop, P. Sangeetha and Jozina Pacheco Gómez.

Essay winners Saliou Diop, P. Sangeetha and Jozina Pacheco Gómez.

Have you visited the 2015 Maximize Life Essay Contest webpage recently? The Max Foundation is honored to share that the 2015 Maximize Life Essay Contest winners are officially released! Three winners in total, one for each of the French, English and Spanish categories, were selected by a panel of highly esteemed judges within the global health community. You may view the complete panel of judges here. We are exceedingly grateful for the valuable time and input provided by each of the judges. With 71 meaningful and authentic personal stories submitted, it was no small task to select only one winner for each language category!

We are also overwhelmingly grateful and proud of the 71 brave individuals who came forward to share about their personal journey with cancer. While we may feel from time to time as though we don’t have enough power to affect change as broadly as we might like, we all come armed with our story, and when it comes to inspiring others with hope, understanding and compassion our stories are powerful tools indeed.

So, without further ado, the 2015 Maximize Life Essay Contest winners are:

In addition to each winner receiving a US$300 grant, The Max Foundation is also providing a US$500 grant to the Max Global Network partner organization of each winner’s choice in an effort to strengthen the work that they are doing within their communities to better support people living with cancer. The following partners were selected by the three winners to receive the grant:

  • A.G.I.L du Sénégal, Senegal (French-Language Winner)
  • Friends of Max, India (English-Language Winner)
  • Esperantra, Peru (Spanish-Language Winner)
  • Congratulations to the winners and partner group awardees! And congratulations to all of the storytellers shared their personal journey. Your words will continue to inspire and bring hope to all who read them.

Browse essays from this year’s essay collection.

The Maximize Life Campaign: A Variety of Events but a Shared Message in Latin America

blogpost407_1In Latin America, the Maximize Life Campaign has become something like a tradition – a time when each patient organization creates an event or activity of their choice and powers it up for a campaign that takes on a life of its own!

13 patient groups from 11 Latin American countries joined this year’s movement, bringing together patients and caregivers with the purpose of telling the community that cancer is an issue, that ignoring it is not going to make it go away, and that the best approach is to learn about it in order to know what to do about it. From governments to the general public, everybody can get involved in figuring out how to treat cancer patients as members of society and not as a burden.

The 13 Maximize Life Campaign events happening throughout Latin America are varied, and they go from meetings that aim to raise awareness in patients and their family members, such as those taking place in Argentina, Nicaragua and Honduras, to larger scale, community involving events, like those happening in Peru and Ecuador. Patients in Chile, Peru and Mexico have perfected a stage play for children with the story of Maximo and the Big C, Ecuador will organize their customary walk through the city with all types of cancer patients and, in Colombia, children going through treatment will be treated to an afternoon of fun and games, and the message that they are not alone.

Other events include promoting the campaign in non-central cities where access to information and support is rare (Guatemala), Maximo storytelling (Costa Rica), visits to the zoo (Dominican Republic), and others.

But all these events have something in common: plenty of helpful information – both scientific and practical, volunteers giving their time and efforts in order to make the activities and success, and the message that cancer can be fought, with everyone pulling in the same direction.

Building a Cancer Coalition in Guatemala

blogpost161_3Our Guest Blogger is Patty Montero, our MaxStation in Guatemala. Patty has worked in cancer control with us for many years and her experience is serving patients well by bringing groups together for social change.

In Guatemala, there are 14,200 new cases of cancer a year and from this amount 9,100 people die of cancer or 64.7%. Most of these diagnoses could have been prevented or better treated if diagnosed early. In Guatemala only the persons who have access to the national social security plan have free services and treatment, but poor quality and lack of medications or in most occasions. People who do not have social security have to pay for health services and for medications. As per statistics taken from Globocan 2008, the most common cancers in Guatemala are prostate, cervix, stomach, breast and lung cancers.

On February 4th, we celebrated the World Cancer Day in Guatemala. There were two events, one meeting of motivation for the cancer patients organized by Heroes de Esperanza, and also the launch for the media of the new “Guatemalan Union Against Cancer” “Union Guatemalteca Contra el Cancer” (UGCC).

The newly formed Union Guatemalteca Contra el Cancer (UGCC) is a coalition of 10 organizations which works against cancer in Guatemala. Through the years, the groups have met many times to get to know about each other’s work and came to understand that is better if we work together to advocate for the Guatemalan population to have access to early diagnostic, treatments, rehabilitation and palliative care against cancer.

Our goal is to continue working together to influence policy makers to give the proper attention and take action to overcome this problem. These organizations include activists, patients, survivors, physicians, relatives of patients and volunteers. Together is possible to create a lot of cancer awareness and programs designed to benefit many persons, patients, survivors, etc.

UGCC is working to strengthen the coalition and inviting other organizations to join, while learning to find the proper way to influence law makers to help in this cause. The coalition is also working to address the other problem of the poor cancer statistics, and it is necessary to design an action plan.

Thanks to the training received and events I have attended with The Max Foundation, I have been participating in this initiative. I am glad to have transmitted my experience and knowledge into this international framework.

Links to news coverage in Spanish:

Un Paso Max: Going the Extra Mile in the Dominican Republic

Sharing the Colors of Hope book.

Sharing the Colors of Hope book.

Un Paso Max, meaning “Un Paso Mas” (One More Step) is a fitting name for a group led by cancer survivors who are willing to take an extra step to help others. Un Paso Max is the name of the CML and GIST patient association in the Dominican Republic. One can trace the origins of this group to a small meeting in 2008. It only took a bit of encouragement and support on the part of The Max Foundation to unlock the passion of a handful of courageous survivors in Santo Domingo, and the seed of a patient association was planted.

By 2009 the core group leaders were able to organize a patient meeting attended by more than 100 survivors and their families. Survivors and caregivers were happy to share experiences and stories with people going through the same situation and living with cancer. Among themselves they decided to become an official group to support each other and be a resource for newly diagnosed patients and their families. Everyone participated in the name selection and the Un Paso Max (One More Step) patient support group was born.

In 2010 Un Paso Max, with the support of volunteers, families and friends, was officially registered as a non-profit organization in the Dominican Republic. This is a very big step and a significant achievement for the group and I want to congratulate all the members of Un Paso Max in the Dominican Republic.

“Un Paso Max is dedicated to providing support and education on leukemia and GIST to patients, caregivers and families. The idea was born out of a few patients supported by The Max Foundation. Today it’s a big group with more than 150 members that can support each other.” the President of Un Paso Max, Claudia Fernandez, informed us.

The board members of Un Paso Max, with the support of their families and friends are leading the survivors into organizing fundraising events and bringing awareness to the local community. Lately, they became known in the region and internationally, when representatives of the group participated in different international conferences. Un Paso Max now has the opportunity to collaborate with other cancer patient organizations in Latin America and to share their experiences and tools to reach their goals.

Un Paso Max works hard to raise funds and help patients with access to diagnostics and treatment and to educate and support patients, families and survivors.

If you want more information of Un Paso Max, below is their contact information:
Fundación Un Paso Max
Claudia Fernandez (President)
Oscar Alberti (Vice-president)
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Go on the Patient Journey

Join Tony as he shares his story of learning about his cancer, gaining access to life-saving medication, and connecting with a community of care.
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