Bay lymphoma survivor aims to help others facing medical challenges

It is with great excitement that I introduce to the community the Friends From The Start Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing information, services and resources to individuals and their loved ones facing extreme medical challenges. Our initial focus will be Bay Village, Westlake and surrounding suburbs, with an eye to expanding throughout the region as time progresses.

I'd like to explain why my wife, Bev, my family, some dear friends and I are establishing this foundation.

On Aug. 2, 2010, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In mid-2011, I was in the hospital for approximately a month for a bone marrow transplant. It has now been seven months since my transplant, and I am thankfully cancer free.

During our journey, I had a support system that was incredible. My spirits were up and my attitude was great. There are so many to thank, starting with God, Bev, my daughters Liz and Caty, and of course, my family and friends. The list seems endless.

The toughest part of this whole experience, however, was seeing the emotional toll my illness was having on my loved ones, which was unmistakable. There is no doubt in my mind that the loved ones of the patient suffer far more than the patient in most cases.

This is exactly why we are establishing this foundation. We want to help alleviate the enormous stress which exists when facing extreme medical challenges. Whether this is by providing information as to whom to turn to from the outset, providing a support system of individuals that have faced similar challenges, or offering financial assistance and resources whenever possible, this will be a continuing work in progress.

So where, as a foundation, do we go from here?

We want to be fully operational and providing services by May 1, 2012. That's less than four short months away. There is much to do, and if you would like to get involved during this period and beyond, we would love to have you on the team. Please email me at tjelepis@gmail.com and I will keep you posted as events progress. We'll plan on having a meeting the first week of February to get everyone together, exchange ideas, and discuss goals and objectives.

If we can help just a few people along the way, this will all be worthwhile. The reality, however, is the sky is the limit when good people work together towards a common goal.

tom jelepis

 Former Mayor of Bay Village.  30 year resident of Bay Village.

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Volume 4, Issue 1, Posted 12:19 PM, 01.10.2012