A few months ago, I told you about a friend I met over the internet….

This “friend” – who has become more like a sister to me – wants to open a Maple Tree Cancer Alliance in Brasil.

Our first international location!

In November, my husband and I traveled to Sorocaba, Brasil, to meet the team that is bringing Maple Tree Brasil into reality. It was one of the most amazing weeks of my entire life, and I left with a renewed sense of mission and purpose for this organization that God has entrusted to my care.

After nearly a year of paperwork, phone calls, preparation, meetings, vision-casting, and dreaming – Maple Tree Brasil is almost ready to fly!!

This week, their team is spending time in Dayton training, observing, and working with us to finalize exactly how this will work in their country.

After this?

It’s go time!!

Maple Tree Brasil plans to officially open their doors the second week of March. In fact, they already have 27 patients on a waiting list!!

Dr. Alice Francisco will be the Executive Director over Maple Tree Brasil. She is a cancer survivor, herself, and has seen first-hand the benefits of exercise on a cancer diagnosis.

I can – without any hesitation – say that Dr. Francisco is just as committed to this cause as I am. This is why I am so excited about what we are doing here….I fully trust her to uphold the ideals and standards we have developed. There is no one else I would rather have represent us in our first international site!

So, you might be wondering about the similarities and differences between the American health system and Brasil’s health care. I know I was!

In Brasil, citizens are offered both private and public health. Approximately 65-70% of the population depends on the public health system, while the remaining 30-35% use the private health care.

Public health is free, and is supported through government taxes. This is a huge bonus, especially when I consider the huge financial burden faced by many patients in America.

However, the Brazilian public system is not without its flaws. Because such a large portion of the population relies on public health, there are often not enough services to meet the patient demand – particularly as it relates to oncology. There is a long waiting list for essential aspects of care that we likely take for granted in America. To try and reduce the wait time and improve survivorship, the Brazilian government wrote a law that patients must begin treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation) within 60 days of diagnosis.  However, more often than not, this does not happen.

As you can imagine, there are no exercise oncology programs available to people in Brasil who battle cancer.

At least, not yet anyway!

Traditionally, Brazilians do not exercise during a health crisis – especially cancer. Just as we saw in America several decades ago, patients are often told to rest and recover while battling cancer. However, we have made great strides in America since then. Thanks to research and education efforts over the last 30+ years, now most oncologists see the value and benefit of exercise oncology.

The Maple Tree Brasil team has strategically used this information to begin to change the prevailing mindset of Brazilians. They are using social media to raise awareness, and holding educational seminars to educate health care professionals and individual patients. In fact, just a few weeks ago, they held an educational workshop specifically for the media, which was met with great acceptance for this program and is building excitement around the country. In fact, Dr. Francisco is even getting requests to begin Maple Tree centers in cities outside of Sorocaba!

It has been a blessing to me to see this team in action. Dr. Francisco told me that everyday, someone comes along who wants to help her out. Her team has grown into a large group of committed, passionate individuals. This was also my experience as I began Maple Tree nearly 9 years ago. Still to this day, I am encouraged and amazed by the people God brings in my path at just the right time.

I know Maple Tree Brasil is going to have a huge impact in thousands of people’s lives. I am so humbled to play even a small role in this work.