"Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more."
In April 2008, Debbie Zelman was forty years old, the mother of three young children, married to a physician and a practicing attorney with her own firm. Then her life changed dramatically when she learned she had stage IV stomach cancer, her cancer was inoperable and incurable, and she would need chemotherapy for the rest of her life. At the time of her diagnosis, Debbie was told there were very few effective treatment options for advanced stomach cancer because it is not a common cancer in the United States and her chances of being alive in five years were less than 5%. Debbie immediately began to educate herself about this disease and to seek the best available care.
As she began to respond to treatment, Debbie decided that she could make a difference in the treatment options for stomach cancer patients by using her education, experience and contacts in the community. Debbie received her Law Degree from the University of Miami and her Bachelor of Arts from Emory University. In addition, she had previous fundraising experience and business experience from running her own law practice for ten years.
There is a sense of urgency for the person living with incurable cancer. Cancer also takes a huge toll on the cancer patient's family. These factors motivated Debbie to begin her work to raise funds for stomach cancer research. In 2009 Debbie started Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer (DDF) to aggressively and immediately fund research into innovative, progressive and cutting-edge treatments for stomach cancer to improve the diagnosis and treatment for this disease; to raise awareness about stomach cancer; and to provide information and assistance to stomach cancer patients, their families and caregivers. It is Debbie's Dream that, with increased funding, more treatments for stomach cancer will become available sooner and a cure will be found. Debbie has turned her personal challenge and the upheaval of her life into a positive force to create a better future for people diagnosed with stomach cancer. She has now been the subject of many news stories and interviews. In January 2012 Debbie appeared on the Dr. Oz show in a segment about stomach cancer. You can view all of this press under the News tab on this website.
Debbie remains on a targeted treatment by IV every three weeks. She lives in Florida with her husband Andrew, twins Rachel and Zachary, and her daughter Sarah.
To read more about Debbie's cancer journey, go to her Caring Bridge blog at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/debrazelman.