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Thursday
Feb212013

Why We're Different

By now, hopefully you guys have seen our video (available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rJsNC4xQW4) and have checked out our website (it’s here: www.thewunderproject.org) , but something that may not be totally clear to you is how The Wunder Project is different from other cancer-related intiatives or organizations you might have encountered.

Why are we special? Why are we different? Before I answer fully, let me give you the quick answer for those of you who like immediate gratification: we are special, and we are different. And as I explain why, please know that I am not talking smack about any other organization or initiative. I love what other groups are doing and I have supported many, many cancer organizations with my money and advocacy. So it’s not about that. But when you live in the cancer world (as a patient and the President of a cancer non-profit) like I do, seeing how The Wunder Project is different from other initiatives is a friggin’ no-brainer. But when you don’t live in the cancer world, it may not be that clear. So I’m going to clear things up.

First of all: our fundraising model. We are giving every penny donated to The Wunder Project to research. We have been blessed to have angel investors who threw in funding before we launched The Wunder Project, and their donations have covered our overhead expenses for the year. To be able to say that 100% of donations go to the cause is extremely rare indeed.

Next: our cause. While we love advocacy and awareness and education, the sole focus of The Wunder Project – our cause -- is research. Cutting-edge research conducted by some of the most brilliant minds in this country and abroad. Molecular analyses, clinical trials, drug development. Hardcore research designed to get us to the cure. Our cause could not be any clearer. We hope you know that March is Colon Cancer Awareness month and we hope you know to get a colonoscopy if you have changes in your bowel movements or bloating or blood in your stool and we hope you know that the color for colon cancer awareness is blue. But our money isn’t going to helping you understand those things. Our money is going to research.

So what kind of research? Not just any old “cancer research”: targeted research, with actual discernable steps and platforms, with an actual timeline, that will result in many, many breakthroughs. And drugs. And drugs that cure. Do you understand what I’m talking about here? THE CURE. The cure that I need to live a long life. I’m not messing around here. I want to live. You know this about me. I WANT TO LIVE. So I’m not hitching my wagon to some run of the mill “cancer research” here. I’m fighting for my life and betting my LIFE on this research. And it is legit, solid, comprehensive, and built to succeed. Our team of doctors stand behind it and our team of docs on our Medical Advisory Board stand behind it. And, like I said, I’m betting my life on it. And I’m very smart, guys. You know I’m not betting my life on some run of the mill research over here. If this wasn’t revolutionary and cutting edge stuff, why would I even spin my wheels? Why not just chill out and get my chemo and go on some ridiculously awesome vacations like I like to do? So yeah, this research is for real. If you don’t believe me and Dr. Lenz and our team and our Medical Advisory Board, then don’t believe in us. But you should.

But we’re such a young organization! I haven’t spent 20 years in the non-profit world. How do I even know how things work? Well, I may not be a veteran of the non-profit world, but I am a Duke-educated and Stanford Law School-educated kid. I am a corporate attorney at O’Melveny & Myers, one of the biggest and most well-respected law firms in the world. I don’t mention my resume to toot my own horn, but to explain to you that I’m a pretty savvy woman and, more than anything, I know how to get stuff done. I know how to get results. That’s what guided me through my time at Duke and Stanford and that’s what made me successful at O’Melveny. I get the job done. And that kind of ability translates just fine into the non-profit world. So yeah, we’re young. I’m young. But we’re smart, connected, determined, and passionate. Also, we’re lean. I don’t take a salary and I don’t have salaried employees. We don’t have an office – we work out of my house in the Hollywood Hills, y’all. We don’t have some crazy hoops to jump through to approve our next move – we have a Board of Directors of committed and efficient individuals who know that we don’t have weeks or months to mull over things. We decide THAT DAY. We move on things THAT DAY. We don’t have time to mess around, so we don’t. We make solid decisions but we do it quickly. There is no bureaucracy within The Wunder Project or within The WunderGlo Foundation.

Finally: the passion behind all of this. It’s probably not difficult to understand that this is my own life on the line. We get it – Gloria doesn’t want to die. But it’s more than that, friends. I’m a patient who has other patient friends. I fight right alongside them. I see them struggle. I see them overcome. I know when they are getting cut open on the operating table or getting chemo. These aren’t just patients, and they aren’t just friends, either. They are my brothers and sisters in the struggle. We are so bonded by our shared disease and the challenges it forces us to face. And the thing is, I don’t just care about these people or wish them well or pray for them. I love them. I love my brothers and sisters in the struggle. And I’m sick of them struggling. Do you know how much it kills me that my best bud Annette isn’t here to run The Wunder Project with me? It kills me, friends. I write her initials on my wrist every single day, and I think of her every single day, and she’s not with me working on this thing because colon cancer took her life. So you know what, colon cancer? I’m going to take yours. Because I’m so fed up with this disease wreaking its havoc on so many people. It’s over now. I’m going to see to it and I promise you that I won’t stop until we have the cure. For me, for my friends, and in memory and in honor of my sweet Annette and others who have been ripped from us way, way too soon.

All the money goes to the cause. The cause is research. The research is cutting-edge and game-changing. The Wunder Project is young, lean, efficient, and smart as all hell. And we have the fire of passion, of love, of loss, and of the simple desire and gratitude for life itself guiding us.

All of those things, taken together, make us different.
Tuesday
Feb192013

The Wunder Project

This is it. Today is the day! The public launch of The Wunder Project, the groundbreaking initiative that began with one simple email discussion between Dr. Lenz and me in mid-September of last year. We had just read that MD Anderson had announced its “Moon Shots” program – the cancer center in Texas had already secured $3 billion dollars of funding and planned to advance treatment with the goal of curing eight different kinds of cancers by the end of the decade.

It was so exciting and impressive, but there was one catch. Colon cancer wasn’t one of the eight cancers they listed.

Obviously, I was bummed out. But then I had a thought. We could have our own “Moon Shot” – our own campaign to raise the funds necessary to get to the cure. I knew that Dr. Lenz and the team he’d assemble could do the work and get the job done, so I proposed it while I was eating a salad in DC, hours before hosting an event for The WunderGlo Foundation.

“We should do it,” I said.

Dr. Lenz shot back within a minute, “I could not agree more.”

And in that moment, The Wunder Project was born.

After months of work, we are ready to show the world our plan for curing colon cancer. The scientific method to get to the cure is solid, the fundraising plan of attack is legit, and there are no two people more committed to seeing this through than Dr. Lenz and me. We will see this through. We won’t stop until there is a cure for colon cancer. And once we show the world that we can cure colon cancer with our approach, we’ll show them that other cancers can be cured by the same approach.

This is the first domino in a series of dominos that will finally end this terrible disease.

From the moment I learned of my diagnosis, I was ready. I was ready to fight. I was ready to show cancer that it couldn’t take my life from me and it couldn’t take my happiness from me. I was ready to say NO to cancer. Hell no, actually.

And now, it’s finally time to say no to cancer for good. Cancer, your time is up.

Here’s what you can do to help:

Please watch the video that we believe will launch our movement. It’s on YouTube and can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rJsNC4xQW4. Please forward that link to everyone you know and urge them to watch the film. Please visit our website at www.thewunderproject.org. Please donate what you can as often as you can. Please introduce me to people who work at big companies or small companies. Please introduce me to your celebrity or athlete friends or politician friends.

Please join our movement.

Please join me.
Monday
Feb182013

Tomorrow Is The Day

Tonight feels like Christmas Eve. It actually feels better than Christmas Eve, and if you know how much I love Christmas (oh man, I LOVE CHRISTMAS), that’s saying something.

Tomorrow, we publicly unveil our big project.

Dr. Lenz and I started working on this project in late September. Since then, we’ve met every single Saturday morning to go over our progress. We’ve met on Mondays, on Tuesdays, on Wednesdays, on Thursdays, and on Fridays. We’ve emailed dozens of times every day. We’ve been focused and have worked really, really hard. We've surrounded ourselves with the best people to help us grow our ideas into a fully functional animal, and those people have not let us down. We have created something real out of a seed of an idea, and it is incredibly, incredibly satisfying to know that the world will see the product of our hard work in just several short hours.

Before things take off, because they will, I wanted to take a minute to express how proud I am of my partnership with Dr. Lenz. I never thought that, at the age of 31, I’d be spending so much time in an oncologist’s office, but the laughter and the hard work and the strategizing and the planning has been a true joy. I would rather go into battle with no one else in this world. I would rather launch this project with no one else in this world. And I’d rather make history with no one else in this world.

And that’s what we’re about to do tomorrow, and in the days and weeks and months that follow. We are going to make history.

And to you, dear readers. Thank you for being a part of my life and being a part of my cancer-killing adventures. I will need your help spreading the word tomorrow and in the coming weeks, and I know that you are all up to the task. Tomorrow is only the beginning of my work, and I know that I’m up to the task, too.

Since my diagnosis, my life has been so rich. I’ve met wonderful people, gone to amazing places, and have been a part of so many beautiful experiences. It is not lost on me that I am on the crest of yet another one of these beautiful experiences that is bound to lead me to even more amazing places and wonderful people. It is not lost on me that tomorrow will change the course of my life. And I can’t wait.

One more day. Mere hours at this point.

We are going to make history.

Thursday
Feb142013

On Love

A fitting topic considering today is Valentine’s Day: love. I don’t think there’s an emotion stronger than love, and there’s hardly a feeling better than loving someone or something with all of your heart. Love makes us vulnerable but, more importantly, it connects us with something outside ourselves. In that sense, when we embrace love, we embrace community – whether it be with another person or with a certain place in the world or with a college basketball team. And when we embrace love, we can never be alone.

So much of my battle royale with cancer could be seen as a path that I’ve walked alone. Sure, I’ve had family and friends cheering me on, and doctors guiding the way, but at the end of the day, who gets wheeled into the operating room? Who rests in the hospital bed and receives hours of chemotherapy drugs? Who deals with the hangover-like side effects from chemo or the dehydration that it brings? Who is alone in that room when the machine lines everything up and radiation starts?

I have supporters around me all the time, but when the rubber hits the road, I have to endure these difficult things -- these cancer-killing and life-saving challenges -- on my own.

But that’s only from the physical standpoint, and that’s a small part of what this cancer-killing experience has been about. The physical stuff is tough and, yes, I have to go it alone, but it’s a fraction of what this entire thing has been about. My fight with cancer has been about learning how to take care of myself, learning how to value every second of life, and making sure that whatever I’m doing, my mind and spirit are focused and positive so they can help my body perform as well as possible. It has been about emotional and spiritual stability and a sense of peace that permeates every moment of my life – knowing that yes, I will be okay. No matter what I have to endure and how long it takes, I will be okay. Knowing that I AM okay in this very moment. And that’s where love comes in.

To feel the love of my family and friends, my colleagues and my medical team is an incredible thing, and something that fills my heart and makes me strong and ready to conquer the world. To be in London or New York City and to experience the places that fascinate me fills me with wonder and inspires me to seek even more joy from life. To cheer on my Duke Blue Devils or sing along to my favorite music or swish a three pointer fortifies my spirit and reminds me that so many things in life make me truly happy. And in those moments, when I am surrounded by love and loving so many things, I know that I could never be alone. I could never be lonely. And I don’t go through anything alone.

When I’m being wheeled into the operating room, even when my family is far away down the hall, I’ve got my iPod and my music. When I’m guzzling up chemo in the day hospital, my family and friends are by my side, rubbing my feet and bringing me food. When I’m dealing with chemo side effects, my Blue Devils are playing basketball beautifully and distracting me from that little lingering headache. And when the techs leave the radiation room, I can close my eyes and dream of England and there I am. At every moment of every day, I can feel love cradling me, protecting me, and seeing me through. And I can feel love making my life an extraordinary, incredible thing.

And in return, I love as hard and as much as my gigantic little heart allows.

It’s life-sustaining and life-affirming. It’s beautiful and precious. It’s unbending and unyielding -- strong, ever-present, and never failing. It’s love.

And speaking of love, there are only five days until my labor of love is unveiled to the public. FIVE DAYS!! I can’t wait to share my plans with all of you.

Wednesday
Feb132013

Chemo Round 44 and The End of Radiation

I know you guys are big on results and I don’t want to leave you in suspense, so let me cut to the chase: since switching to my new treatment plan of FOLFOX and radiation (for the rogue lymph node in my chest area), my tumor markers are stable and even a tad down. That’s what we like to see. I’ll make sure I keep it up.

And now, without further ado, my thoughts on Chemo Round 44 and the end of my 10-day stint of radiation.

So chemo round 44 wasn’t as easy as most rounds have been. Pre-meds went well, Avastin was a breeze, but when it was Oxaliplatin time (the OX in FOLFOX), my body wasn’t feeling it. Almost immediately, I felt my ears get a little itchy, my face flush, and I knew what was happening: I was having an allergic reaction to the Oxali. It happens, and it happened to me way back during Chemo Round 8. Many patients develop an aversion to Oxaliplatin and need to pump up the Benadryl and slow down the Oxali drip, and some patients have to stop taking the drug entirely. This time around, we decided to hold the Oxali and try again next time. I’m hoping that I can keep keepin’ on with Oxaliplatin, but we’ll need to wait and see. Bottom line is I got most of my drugs on Monday and emerged from my Oxali-incident unscathed. And it’s Wednesday night and I think it’s safe to say that I’ve bounced back from chemo.

And now, radiation. Man, radiation was a breeze. 10 sessions in a row, with weekends off. No problem. I polished off my last session today and kept on rolling. This just goes to show you that chemo and radiation at the same time can be done, and you can keep things moving while doing it. That poor rogue lymph node is toast.

Finally, I’m happy to announce that all the work I’ve been doing with The Wunder Project is almost ready for all of you to see. The countdown is on. Six days until the public unveiling of the most ambitious, most exciting thing I’ll ever do in my life. And that’s saying something because you know I like to do ambitious and exciting things.

SIX DAYS!! Stay tuned, dear readers!!

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