Welcome Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer
Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer is dedicated to raising awareness about stomach cancer, advancing funding for research, and providing education and support internationally to patients, families, and caregivers. DDF seeks as its ultimate goal to make the cure for stomach cancer a reality. Visit our Contact Us Page
(954) 475-1200 Office
(855) 475-1200 Toll Free Hotline

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Making a Difference in Your Area

Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer has its headquarters in South Florida and Chapters across the United States, Canada and Germany with more opening all the time.  Our Chapters allow us to serve the needs of stomach cancer patients, families, and caregivers across the world.  If you are interested in starting a DDF Chapter or inquiring about whether a Chapter is in the works in your area, please contact us at (855) 475-1200 or send an email to Admin@DebbiesDream.org.  We welcome your inquiries, help and involvement!



The headquarters of Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer is located in Florida and is where the work of DDF started in April 2009 by President and Founder Debbie Zelman pictured here. To read more about the DDF President and Founder Debbie Zelman, click the below link: 


California Los Angeles Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founders:  Tom and Aki Smith, Shigeo Tsuruoka
Tom's Email:  thomasclsmith89@gmail.com
Tom's Cell:  (619) 993-0219
Aki's Email:  aki@akiandtom.com
Aki's Cell:  (310) 228-4105

My name is Aki, and I am my father's (Shigeo Tsuruoka) full-time caregiver, supporter, and advocate. Long ago, my father and I made a deal; he fights the cancer, and I fight the world to make it possible.  At the beginning, my father learned he had stomach cancer at the doctor's office by himself in December 2013. Since then, I have never missed a single doctors' appointment, scan, or infusion.  Navigating through this journey has been rough, especially dealing with a cancer that has grim survival statistics and very little research. I have also learned firsthand the big business side of cancer, and that's ugly too. When my father was first diagnosed with gastric cancer, his doctors believed he was in his early stages. We spent 3 months getting tests, ordering tests, pre-approving him for tests. It was a nightmare…none of his team of doctors agreed on any precise plan of action. I realized that he was just a pawn; quickly racking up many dollars for the medical group. I knew my father needed a second opinion, so I followed the NCI money trail. I was surprised that stomach cancer was number 33 on the NCI list, considering it's the second deadest cancer in the world. I saw very little monies allocated for stomach cancer research, but I also saw that UCLA GI oncology got quite a big chuck of it.  Two appeals later, I got my father his second opinion at UCLA, and a treatment plan was put together. It was so vastly different than anything we've seen before; insurance could not deny that UCLA could possibly save my father's life.  The timing worked out in our favor, because test results were starting to reveal that my father's cancer was actually quite advanced.  My father had his stomach removed first, then chemo, then radiation. It's been really hard watching him fight this cancer; and it been really hard fighting with his medical group/ insurance on every single step of the way. I wish there was a standard protocol on stomach cancer… but there isn't.  I wish we had more clinical studies on stomach cancer… but we don't. We look to research from Japan/South Korea—and that's unfair because there, they have screenings in place and gastric cancers are being found early. Here in the US, they are being found late. The truth is we need more research and more funding. We need to give other warriors out there a chance, and we need to improve these survival statistics.

My husband, Tom Smith, and I founded the Los Angeles Chapter because we believe in Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer. We are dedicated to raise awareness, advance funding for research, and provide education and support our local patients, families, and caregivers. We too believe that Curing Stomach Cancer can be a reality.

California San Diego Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder:  Kathleen Clarke-Zumpone
Email:  kmc-cota@cox.net
Cell:  (619) 993-0219
Kathleen Clarke-Zumpone founded the San Diego Chapter in memory of her sister, Mauri Olsen, who passed away on 8/16/13 from Stage IV gastric cancer.  Mauri was diagnosed in October 2010 and bravely underwent treatment up until a few weeks before she passed away.  Mauri is ...
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California San Francisco Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founders:  Branny and Albert Carrasco
Email:  Albert.Carrasco@dla.mil

Cell: (209) 541-6305
The San Francisco Chapter was started by Albert and Branny Carrasco. Branny was diagnosed with Stage 3b stomach cancer in November 2013, at 31 years of age. She had a Helicobacter Pylori infection. H.Pylori caused an Ulcer and a few days in the emergency room. After a year of seeing a few GI specialists all seemed well....
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Florida Southwest Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder:  Rebecca Royer
Email:  raroyer3@gmail.com

Cell: (330) 502-0906

Rebecca Royer founded the Southwest Florida chapter in honor of her father, Chuck, who was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer of the GE Junction with liver mets in February 2013 at the age of 62. His only symptom prior to diagnosis was a feeling of "food getting stuck" off and ...
» Read complete biography

Georgia Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder:  Tracy Todd
Email: tracymtodd@me.com
Cell: (770) 913-9992 
Tracy Todd, age 44, started the Georgia Chapter when she was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer in January 2013. Tracy is currently undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and has completed 4 rounds. Scans show over a 50% reduction in lymph node ...
» Read complete biography

Idaho Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder:  Steve Andrews, MBA
Email: steve.andrews@simplot.com

Cell: (208) 867-6979
Steve Andrews was born in California but moved to Idaho in 1972.  He received his Accounting degree from the University of Idaho in 1984 and recently obtained an Executive MBA from Boise State University.  Steve worked in public accounting starting in 1985 and in 1988 joined ...
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Illinois Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder:  Eric Grush
Chapter President: Linda Grush

Email: grushfamily@comcast.net
Cell:  (312) 805-9675

Eric Grush established the Illinois chapter of DDF in 2012, two years after he was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer. After undergoing chemotherapy, surgery to remove most of his stomach and esophagus, more chemo, and then two separate clinical trials, Eric passed ...
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Maine Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Anna Stoessinger
Email: astoessinger@gmail.com
Cell: (917) 406-9298 
The Maine Chapter was founded by Anna Stoessinger who was diagnosed in April 2011 with Stage 2 gastric cancer. She underwent chemo and a total curative gastrectomy over the course of the year. Anna is a writer who works in advertising. She splits her time between ...
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Maryland Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder:  Gae Rogers
Email: Gae.Rogers@DebbiesDream.org
Cell: (410) 596-5859 
The Maryland Chapter was founded by Gae Rogers who is also a DDF Patient Resource Education Mentor.  Gae was diagnosed with Stage II stomach cancer in July 2007. She had a partial gastrectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. Her treatments ended in February 2008,....
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Michigan East Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: James Randy Hillard, MD
Email: jhillard@msu.edu
Phone: (517) 353-3211 
The Michigan East Chapter was started by Randy Hillard, MD, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer in December 2010, at 59 years of age. He had been feeling perfectly well before diagnosis, except being a little tired. It turned out that his hemoglobin was ...
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Michigan West Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Tammy Houda, RN
Email:  tland814@gmail.com
Cell:  (616) 780-9761
The West Michigan Chapter was founded by Tammy Houda whose mother, Sharron Anderson, was diagnosed with Stage IV gastric cancer (adenocarcinoma) on June 21, 2012, and passed away only 17 days later on July 8, 2012 – the day before she was to start her chemo....
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Mississippi Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Wesley Blake Vanderlan, MD
Email:  Blake.Vanderlan@yahoo.com
Cell:  (775) 842-2903
Blake was born and raised in South Florida.  He attended Nova High School with Debbie Zelman where they were friends.  His undergraduate years were spent in New England attending Clark University and Harvard College.  Blake planned to be a radiation oncologist.  Pursuit of...
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Nebraska Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Cyndi Howard, RN
Email: Dougferg@cox.net
Cell: (402) 203-6350
The Nebraska Chapter was founded by Cyndi Howard whose husband Doug was diagnosed in October 2010 with stomach cancer (Stage 4 adenocarcinoma). The diagnosis was a shock to their family and community because Doug was such a healthy guy – a marathon runner! ...
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New Jersey North Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Nicole Woodward
Email: nikkiwood1012@gmail.com
Cell: (732) 648-1436 
The North New Jersey Chapter was founded by Nicole "Nikki" Woodward who is 29 years old. She was raised in Marlboro, NJ, where she met her best friend Kristian and his sister Jenni when they were in grade school. Kristian and Jenni moved to Florida, but ...
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New Jersey South Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Melani Vincelli
Email: melani.vincelli@gmail.com
Cell: (908) 910-5573 
The New Jersey South Chapter was founded by Melani Vincelli who was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer in June of 2009. After six rounds of chemo that ended in October 2009, a total gastrectomy, removal of her gallbladder and part of her liver in December 2009, she has ...
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New York Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Nicole Reichenbach
Email: nicole.reichenbach@gmail.com
Cell: 914-484-6550
Nicole first learned about DDF when her father was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer in February 2013. After this grave diagnosis, Nicole searched the internet for any encouraging news and found Debbie Zelman's inspiring story, which offered a ray of hope to ...
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North Carolina East Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founders:  Christina and Anthony Leonard
Email:  christy.l.leonard@gmail.com

Cell:  (910) 322-2177
Tony and Christy Leonard were married in 2007 and have 5 boys.  Tony was diagnosed with Stage IIIB stomach cancer in Feb 2012.  After a total gastrectomy, chemo-radiation, and more chemo, he is cancer free!!!  Tony was only 39 years old when he was diagnosed, and there ...
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North Carolina West Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Laura Hankin Lewin
Email: lauralewin@aol.com
Cell: (704) 281-7633 
The North Carolina West Chapter was founded by Laura Hankin Lewin who is originally from New York, but North Carolina has been her home since 1999. Lewin is a school guidance counselor at a public middle school. Laura's closest friend in college was Debbie ...
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Ohio Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founders: Paul & Angela Bosela and Sheila Gambaccini
Cell: (330) 666-6897
Email: abosela@roadrunner.com
Email: sagambaccini@hotmail.com
Angela Bosela is a stomach cancer survivor who was diagnosed with an aggressive, fast-growing stomach cancer at the age of 55. After a 70% gastrectomy and four cycles of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she has been cancer free for more than ...
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Pennsylvania Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder Information: Marguerite Semenza
Email: margenza@comcast.net
Cell: (570) 878-2289
My husband, Bob, was employed by the Pa. Dept. of Labor and Industry for 35 years.  He was passionate about serving our community as a Borough Councilman and did so throughout his illness. He also kept very active golfing and playing softball for many years.  The day ...
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Tennessee Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder:  Heather Coffee
Email: hscoffee0615@gmail.com
Cell: (931) 545-7818
Heather Coffee was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer in June 2012 when she was only 25 years old.  Heather's initial symptoms were stomach pain, nausea, vomiting blood, and feeling bloated after eating.  After 2 rounds of chemotherapy, medication, and lots of ...
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Virginia Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Christina L. Childs
Email: christina.l.childs@gmail.com
Cell: (571) 288-2410
The Virginia Chapter was founded by Christina Childs in honor of her father Robert who was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer and passed away within 6 weeks. Robert's death was a tragedy for Christina's family because he was the patriarch and the "glue" ...
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Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founders:  Stephen and Traci Parrott
Steve's Email:  ibewbull@gmail.com
Steve's Cell:  (619) 993-0219
Traci's Email: ducky434@gmail.com

Traci's Cell:  (715) 498-0613

Steve is a New Jersey native and a veteran of the Navy, serving in the Vietnam Era on the USS Lawrence DDG-4 stationed out of Norfolk, VA with cruises to the North Atlantic, Africa, and Mid-East making him both a Bluenose and a Golden Shellback.  After receiving his Honorable ...
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Wisconsin Chapter

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founders:  Stephen and Traci Parrott
Steve's Email:  ibewbull@gmail.com
Steve's Cell:  (619) 993-0219
Traci's Email: ducky434@gmail.com

Traci's Cell:  (715) 498-0613

Steve is a New Jersey native and a veteran of the Navy, serving in the Vietnam Era on the USS Lawrence DDG-4 stationed out of Norfolk, VA with cruises to the North Atlantic, Africa, and Mid-East making him both a Bluenose and a Golden Shellback.  After receiving his Honorable Discharge, Steve left the east coast on an automotive adventure to visit his father in California, stopping off in Wisconsin to visit a shipmate and his family.  He never left.  Instead he pursued his career with the IBEW as an Inside Wireman, transitioning from residential to heavy industrial construction, raising 3 children along the way.

On March 3, 2013, at age 59, Steve vomited blood, necessitating a trip to the ER. The endoscopy expecting to find a bleeding ulcer instead found an ulcerated tumor at his GE junction.  The doctors thought the tumor had been bleeding slowly for 2 or 3 weeks, not initially enough to irritate the stomach into vomiting, but enough that Steve had lost half his blood.  During that 4 day stay in IMC (Intermediate Care) the doctors worked to stabilize his blood loss, did a PET scan and, gave him 3 units of whole blood and 2 more units of iron the day of his release.  Prior to vomiting blood his symptoms were classically vague: fatigue, pale (from anemia), a nagging back ache between the shoulder blades, and feeling full after eating very little.  Having entered the hospital on a Sunday, he met Monday with the same oncologist that had treated his mother-in-law during her fight with stage IIIA colon cancer and a surgical port-a-cath placement was scheduled for Tuesday. Wednesday he received 2 units of iron, so his blood work would look good for beginning chemotherapy the following Monday and he opted to receive the biopsy report at home via phone...already knowing it would come back cancer: grade 2 moderately differentiated adenocarcinoma.  Thursday he traveled to the Weston Regional Medical Center at St. Claire's in Weston, WI for an EKG in preparation for the EUS (Esophageal Ultrasound) on Friday for a second opinion and staging.  At that point Steve had one lymph node involved, the tumor having grown through all but the outside layer of his stomach, the muscularis propria (T3 N1 M0) stage IIB gastric cancer.  Monday he began aggressive treatment for a tumor the doctors estimated had only been growing for 5 or 6 months to be 12 cm x 5.7 cm x 2.4 cm in the gastric cardia (upper portion of the stomach), partially obstructing the GE junction, and extending 6 cm up his esophagus and measuring 2.5 cm x 1.6 cm.  "It all moved so fast, there was no time to be afraid, there was only time to act", he recalls.  At the time he received his stage IIB gastric cancer diagnosis, Dr. Tanimu, who performed the EUS told him something Steve took to heart "you have a long, hard fight ahead of you.  But it is beatable.  Pick the one thing that means the most to you and you fight for that."

Traci, Steve's wife of 18 years is a UA Building Trades Journeyman Steamfitter and Certified Instrument Technician.  While Steve chose to "concentrate on getting better", he tasked Traci with handling the technical aspects of his care, being his advocate.  Between Steve's diagnosis and her father's cerebral hemorrhage on 26 March 2013, she learned how important it is that a patient in life threatening circumstances have an advocate, and how critical it is to have an Advance Health Care Directive in place before one is ever  needed.   Just like Steve's diagnosis came hard and fast, so too did the transition to Caregiver, necessitating abandoning the pursuit of her B.S. in Construction Management, and eventually causing her to cease working in the construction field where travel to distant projects for startup and commissioning team assignments took her.  "I learned that it isn't important that the doctor or nursing staff like me, what was important was that every need of the patient I was advocating for was explained clearly, effectively and addressed properly.  We learned how important it is for the patient and advocate to be a part of the health care team" she recalls.

Steve began with Chemotherapy: one cycle of E/C/F (Epirubicin, Cisplatin, 5-Fu or Fluorouracil), having the 5-FU pump for 21 days.  Then, upon conferring with colleagues better versed in gastric cancer, Dr. Onitilo transitioned him to 5 more cycles of D/C/F (Docetaxel/Cisplatin/5-FU), given every 2 weeks.  Dr. Onitilo said "we have one chance to get this right.  We don't want to look back and say we should have or if we would have.  So, I talked to my colleagues about you."   During this time he also received Pegfilgrastim to help his body make more white blood cells. Next came radiation to hopefully shrink the tumor in preparation for surgery. Steve received 25 daily treatments of radiation in conjunction with chemothearapy: Paclitaxel and Carboplatin.  After healing, Steve had the Ivor-Lewis procedure Esophagogastrectomy; a BIG 7 hour surgery requiring 2 surgeons, with the best thoracic and vascular surgeon in the region.   During the procedure 2/3 of his esophagus were removed and roughly half of his stomach along with 11 lymph nodes.  Unfortunately there was more lympho-vascular involment than hoped, with 7 lymph nodes showing signs of the cancer.  The surgeons had a hard time getting a clean margin in the stomach while still having enough stomach for reattachment to the esophagus, the narrowest clean margin being 0.2 cm.  This necessitated more chemotherapy: this time FOLFOX, 6 cycles, in hopes of cleaning up any cancer left in his body.  This despite the fact that the colleagues Dr. Onitillo had shared Steve's case with said they would "watch and wait."  Steve wanted to go aggressive, saying he didn't want to live with a "live grenade in his pocket, waiting for it to go off."  Dr. Onitilo said "I didn't think you were a sit around and wait kind of guy, so I also talked to them about what they would do if they chose to treat it."

In March of 2014 an EGD (Esohpagogastroduodenoscopy) was performed, showing that the surgical site looked good.  However, his bimonthly CT scan showed a 14 mm lesion had developed in his liver.  Another PET scan was performed, and the lesion failed to uptake the sugar/isotope solution and did not fluoresce.  A watch and wait approach was adopted, as this could be a benign lesion, or an early cancer that had not yet begun to uptake the sugar solution.   Being located in the dome of his liver, under his diaphragm, a biopsy could not be performed.  Steve's mid-October regularly scheduled CT indicated the initial lesion had grown to 29 mm, with another growing in the right lobe of his liver to 23 mm x 24 mm.  This new lesion was located where a biopsy could be done, and it showed metastatic stomach cancer.  Steve was now stage IV, and more radiation was scheduled.  This time SBRT, a high dose, Live CT guided, targeted radiation.

It was in those early days of being diagnosed stage IV, advanced gastric cancer, that the Parrott's found DDF.  Their first interaction was to write a proclamation application to have November Proclaimed as Curing Stomach Cancer Month for the first time in Wisconsin.  The proclamation process normally takes 4 - 6 weeks, it happened in only 11 days!  But no news media would pick up the story.  "Reading the SEER statistics, the American Cancer Society's 5 year survival statistics, that Steve had only a 4% chance of surviving with stage IV gastric cancer was frightening.  Despite everything we had done, all the aggressive treatment, we were still stage IV.  But finding DDF and the wealth of information I wish we had at the beginning offered hope, and I needed to hope" recalls Traci. "In those first days I remember telling our oncologist that I didn't even know what I didn't know, so I had no idea what questions to ask or how to have an intelligent conversation."  But the Lawrence had a motto: DGUTS, or Don't Give Up The Ship, and Steve took that to heart, saying "someone has to be in that 4%, why not me?"  DDF reached out, asking for advocates to travel to D.C. in March of 2015, to advocate for more stomach cancer research funding, they decided to participate, despite Steve's health challenges.  "It seemed like the right thing to do, as Advocacy Day took place the week of my 2 year anniversary with this diagnosis" said Steve, "and as this affects our military and I'm a vet, I can use my voice where other's have been silent, because they lost their lives to this."  They decided to found a DDF Chapter in Wisconsin because others should not face this diagnosis alone, there needs to be more awareness, better access to information, more research, better survival odds, and more hope.

Canada Chapter - British Columbia

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Millie McConnell
Email: millie_mcconnell@yahoo.ca
Cell: (604) 825-3334 
November 15, 2000 I was diagnosed with Stage 3B stomach cancer and told this type of cancer was called SIGNET RING which is an aggressive cancer and that they didn't know anything about it ~ thus didn't know how to treat it. Approximately two weeks ...
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Canada Chapter - Ontario
Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Co-Founder: Katy Kosyachkova
Email: e.kosyachkova@gmail.com
Cell: (647) 965-0207
Ekaterina (Katy) Kosyachkova is a 25 year old student at the University of Toronto. At 21 years of age she was studying for exams when she collapsed suddenly. ...
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Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Co-Founder: Teresa Tiano
Email: tere_ti@yahoo.com
Cell: (647) 887-9373
Teresa Tiano was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelors Degree in History and Literature, ...
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Germany Chapter - Frankfurt

Chapter Contact Information

Chapter Founder: Trudi Jung
Email: trudijung@t-online.de
Cell: +49 171 75 49495

The chapter in Frankfurt, Germany, was founded by Trudi because of her enthusiasm for the DDF mission to  raise awareness about stomach cancer, advance funding for research, and provide education and support to patients, families, and caregivers in German speaking countries....
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