Vijaylakshmi Venkatesh

It all began at the Max Foundation office in Edmonds in 2002. I was telling Pat about how the number of people I was working with in India was growing. There were then so many individuals having to face the trauma of a cancer diagnosis in their families and being enrolled into GIPAP. They were talking to me, their families opening up and wanting to know so much and more. Whenever and wherever possible we had begun to meet with each other; in open gardens and on the sea front or in street cafes in whichever city work would take me to. Budget and work constraints would make me realize soon that it was not possible for me to keep traveling. There was place in our hearts but not in my little workplace in Mumbai.

We needed to keep up with the techno times and hook up with cyber space and give these people all the room they wanted. It was inevitable that we look at the option of setting up an email group for effective and result-oriented communication and sharing. These were patients and families who were joined together by a life-threatening diagnosis— yes, but also by their unique collective experience of being part of a donation programme like no other, a programme that required personalized follow up for a long period of time.

I had just myself begun to be involved in a similar group with my extended family and was enjoying being in touch with folks far and wide in the comfort of my own time and space. So I said to Pat, “Why not?” And the India GIPAP Yahoo email group was born. Before we knew it all those who had access to email were one by one joining in the group. Introductions and queries and the occasional “funny forwards” began doing the rounds; relationships began to be formed and gradually valuable information and responses began to be shared. It was inevitable that one day each person in the group wanted to know the face of the name he or she had begun to know so well on email. So, the reverse process started of cyber space virtual meetings being converted into actual physical ones where everyone made an effort to get together from different parts of the country – local groups merged into regional and then finally into national All India Meetings. There were no questions asked when the “Friends of Max” name was bestowed upon the group and then the logo was designed and a whole new world simply opened up for all of us. Today, six years on, we recognize this spontaneous coming together as a movement like no other and something which has established The Friends of Max as quite possibly the largest peer support group in the world.  

It was again simply a matter of time before this committed and motivated group registered themselves as a Charitable Trust and dedicated itself to the welfare of patients from financially challenged backgrounds. There could be no better way of giving back to the community.  

I am proud to introduce Friends of Max – the Indian Patient Support Group arm of The Max Foundation that has found its own special place in the world of cancer care – an independent entity that is reaching out to community in the real and virtual world.

More strength to you FOM. We are always there for you.