What really started this journey for me was my gynecologic/oncologist Dr. Peter Dottino. He performed the surgery that saved my life. He is an outstanding physician and a really great person. I had to see him every 2 months for the first year after my surgery. At the time he was traveling to places like Niger, Romania and Liberia to perform free surgeries and teach new techniques. Listening to his stories and seeing how passionate he was about his work, I felt compelled to do something to contribute to helping women with cancer, I just didn't know what I could do. Then I received the email from British Airways with the Face to Face Grant Opportunity and just wrote from my heart and now everything seems to be falling into place.
So much is happening, it is amazing what you can get done in a couple of weeks. I have my first NGO on board Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) http://www.cpaaindia.org/index.htm. They are an agency in Mumbai, India "working towards the total management of Cancer as a disease. Established in 1969, they have a tradition of untiring service to needy cancer patients from all over India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan. CPAA is an empathettic, reassuring , non-medical presence that has supported the treatment and overall needs of more than 40,000 cancer patients". Shubha Maudgal is my contact here, I am very much looking forward to working with her. I am planning to be in India sometime in the end of October-November.
My very good friend Beth Corn (also an great allergist) has linked me with her brother, Dr. Ben Corn, the chairman of Radiation Oncology at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. He has also established Life's Door, http://www.lifesdoor.org/ an amazing organization that is trying to "reform, if not transform, the experience of facing life threatening illness from one of anguish, confusion and denial to one that encourages collaboration, growth and healing for patients, families and professionals." It is a very unique organization in the Middle East, and I am thrilled that they want to be part of the project. I will be traveling to Israel sometime in late spring or early summer.
I got a very positive response from the World Health Organization, and I am waiting for a response from The International Union Against Cancer. I am hoping that they can help me partner with some NGO's in Syria, Jordan, Ghana, Vietnam and Cambodia. They are both in Geneva, so I may be heading there at some point as well.
There is a program called Woman to Woman that is run by a remarkable woman Arden Moulton. "Woman to Woman is a network of trained volunteers, survivors of gynecologic cancer, providing hope, support and education to women in treatment at Mt Sinai in New York City". They were so helpful to me after my surgery. Arden has put me in touch with 3 incredible women willing to work with me on the project. I am really excited about starting here at home!!
My first trip will be in March or April with Dr. Dottino to Liberia, I am SO excited. He has been traveling there about twice a year for the last two years, performing surgeries and oncology treatments. Two horrendous civil wars spanning 20 years left only 52 doctors in the country, it will be a really eye opening trip.
This is the basic outline for my travel over the next year.....by the beginning of February I should really be up and running and starting shooting here in NY....wish me luck and thanks to everyone who wrote to me with the really kind words of support and encouragement, it means the world to me!!