In December, 2013, the Life Raft Group launched its We Are the Cure campaign to fund GIST research in response to the shrinking pool of available funds. As a rare disease, GIST research is impacted more than other more common cancers like breast and colon. Institutions like the National Cancer Institute are funding just four to five percent of all research proposals which means that a rare cancer like GIST is lost amongst the roughly 200 cancers competing for funding.

Over the past seven years, thanks to the dedication and support of the GIST community, the LRG Research Team has challenged the traditional cancer research norms and set new standards for how research can be accomplished. This is an exciting time for GIST research as our researchers have reached milestones, identifying many new treatment options in the last few years alone. Today, nine laboratories comprised of the world’s best GIST researchers are collaborating on innovative projects.

We Are the Cure is a collaborative effort of all members of the LRG community: GIST patients, caregivers, patient advocates and family and friends to support and partner with our researchers to find a cure. To date, team members have raised over $48,000 to support these efforts.

What inspires someone to become a part of the We Are the Cure campaign?

we-are-the-cureFor Teena Petersohn, the inspiration came from a plea from the Life Raft Group’s Executive Director, Norman Scherzer, when he let it be known that if we don’t get funds, we won’t find a cure.

That was enough to spur Teena into action. “This is something I can do,” she stated. Recognizing that even a small effort can bring about results, she planned her strategy.

Teena waited until after the holidays were over, and then targeted friends and family on her Christmas card list. She sent them a letter, explaining what GIST was, and how it affected families and communities.

“I left it up to the people,” Teena reports. Although she would have liked more donations, she recognizes that everyone she contacted is at least now aware of GIST and its impact.

She has found great support in her family and friends. “They care about what I care about. They will ask me questions about GIST, which raises awareness.”Petersohn has raised awareness in other ways. After LifeFest 2012, she wrote an article for her local paper. A self-described “private person,” she nonetheless stepped out of her comfort zone to contribute to GIST awareness.

“Doctors especially need to know about GIST. Very few in Iowa know about it.”

For Teena, the Life Raft Group has been an important lifeline. “I appreciate everything that you do. You are our backbone. I know I can call or email anytime and someone will help me.”

With LRG members like Teena as part of  We Are the Cure, we can be assured of not only continued efforts to raise funds for research, but also to raise greater awareness about GIST, not only in Iowa, but in the world.