Supporting research and a friend

In April 2013, mom of 3 Amy Strasser, 36 of South Charlotte, knew she had to do something to help her friend Pattie who was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer. Amy was with Pattie when she received the devastating news, and they were told that there were no specific treatments for her rare cancer (appendecial). S

Amy decided to start a foundation to provide funding through the Carolinas HealthCare Foundation to support the research and treatment of rare and unusual cancers called The P Strong Fund.

Q. How was The P Strong Fund started?

A. I was heartbroken when Pattie was diagnosed. I immediately wanted to do something, but felt incredibly helpless at the same time. Starting the P Strong fund was my way of "fixing it".

Once I was set on moving forward with fundraising, I recruited a board of amazingly talented and generous friends to help me (Deborah Russo, Allison Nelson, Pam Cohen, Susan Cameron, Sheri Gersin, Sue Rucho, Rebekah Laws and Trent Merchant). I could never have done this alone and am forever grateful to this wonderful group of people who took my dream and made it a reality.

Q. What was it like being with Pattie when she heard the news?

A. I’d have to say that was one of the worst days of my life. What started out as breakfast on a beautiful day, turned into hours at the ER and a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

To say that we were in shock is a bit of an understatement. Until April 25th, Pattie had no symptoms and therefore no apparent signs of the disease. When the CT scan revealed a mass, we looked at each other and the first thing she said was, "my kids" and we both broke into tears.

Instantly I climbed into the hospital bed with her and held her as we cried. We are both mothers of three children, so I knew the magnitude of her fears. That moment is forever engrained into my memory.

Q. What type of cancer was Pattie diagnosed with? Have they found any treatments?

A. Pattie was diagnosed with Stage 4 High Grade Appendiceal Mucinous Adenocarcinoma - a cancer so rare that fewer than 1,000 people are diagnosed annually. Currently, there is no treatment protocol for her type of cancer, which is where our fundraising comes in.

After her surgery, we met her amazing oncologist, Dr. Reza. I sat next to her bedside and listened as he explained how there is no treatment for her type of disease, however, they were going to treat her like she has colon cancer, since they "seem to be similar".

That information coupled with the statistics of a high reoccurrence rate had my head spinning and I remember thinking, “No, that is not going to be good enough for me. We must find a treatment for her, and others like Pattie.” Thus, I set out to start a fund to raise money for research on rare and unusual cancers, specifically appendiceal.

Q. It was almost a year ago, how is she doing now?

A. I honestly cannot believe that it has been almost a year. It seems like it was forever ago, yet the time flew by just the same. Pattie is doing well. I am so proud of her strength. She looks amazing. If you didn't know it, you would never think she had just undergone six months of chemotherapy.

Q. Do you have any upcoming fundraisers or ways our readers can help?

A. Yes!! Our inaugural event, the Bal Masque' is Friday, March 28th! We encourage everyone to go to our website and either purchase a ticket, or make a donation.

Q. How much money have you raised with The P Strong Fund?

A. As of March 21st, we have raised around $70k! Words cannot express how proud I am of our initial success!

The P Strong board has worked so hard and watching the community come together to support a cause so dear to us all has been such an amazing experience.

Q. Does all of the money go toward Pattie's treatment?

A. Absolutely not. None of it, in fact. The monies raised will be going towards research for appendiceal cancer. Our vision is to be able to financially support clinical studies in an effort to find proper treatments for this disease.

Q. What are the future plans of The P Strong Fund?

A. Can you ask me that after the gala on March 29th??? In all seriousness, when I began this initiative, my main thought was to find a treatment for Pattie should her cancer return down the road. To have a protocol in place for that would just be simply amazing!

I am fairly certain that we have raised enough money so far to be able to offer a grant to researchers this year. Beyond that, my very passionate and enthusiastic board members have dreams for us to join forces with other fundraising arms around the country fighting for rare and unusual cancers. Stay tuned.

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