The Gastric Cancer Foundation would not be where it is today without the tireless effort and unending passion of Joseph Peter (J.P.) Gallagher, who lost his five-year battle with the disease on February 26. All of the board members, staff and volunteers are saddened by his loss, and determined to continue the fantastic legacy he left.
J.P. launched the foundation in 2008, less than a year after his diagnosis and just after he completed his first treatment. J.P., an MBA with a specialty in marketing, detected a dearth of information about gastric cancer—both for patients and for scientists attempting to invent new treatments. He took it upon himself to fill that void.
Under J.P.’s leadership, the foundation raised millions of dollars for gastric cancer research from individuals and corporations such as Genentech and Yahoo. It began funding a range of research projects, including an effort at Stanford University to sequence the genome of the gastric cancer cell. J.P.’s employer, NetApp, generously donated the hardware that’s now used for the genomics work.
Even after J.P.’s cancer returned in 2010, he continued to pour tremendous energy into GCF. J.P.’s pride and joy was the Gastric Cancer Registry, launched in 2011, which is collecting information from patients and matching it up with genomic data from tissue samples. The goal of the registry is to help scientists develop better strategies for preventing, detecting, and treating gastric cancer.
Everyone active in the foundation treasured the opportunity to work with J.P.. “He was one of the most positive and upbeat people I’d ever come to know well,” says GCF board member Wayne Feinstein. “ We were comrades in arms, hoping that we would succeed in beating the clock—finding new, effective treatments before the disease would recur,” Wayne recalls. “J.P.’s own last year was a triumph of some of our earliest funded work, as new approaches to treatment kept him alive and active for a year. And even at the end, J.P. was certain he’d overcome, telling me just a few weeks before he passed that he’d be at our March board meeting in person. I miss him deeply, but will always benefit from his constant inspiration and enthusiasm.”
Throughout his life, J.P. always found ways to give back. As an undergraduate at Gonzaga University, he gave his free time to the Volunteer Center, Habitat for Humanity, and the Houston Area Women’s Shelter. After graduating, he volunteered for Jesuit Volunteer Corps for two years. He loved spending time with his wife, Cindy, his three children and large extended family.
Many people who have been personally impacted by gastric cancer found hope and comfort in J.P.. “After a one-year unsuccessful attempt to survive a gastric cancer diagnoses, our daughter died in January 2010,” says board member Ron Weintraub, who first met J.P. at a GCF board meeting in July 2011. “With her experience as my background, it seemed a miracle that J.P. was active and very much ‘with it’ in all aspects of his life, month after month, year after year. All during the trying time he was being treated for gastric cancer, he found the strength and energy for his family, his treatment, and the founding of the foundation.”
With the help of the board, J.P. managed the expansion of GCF, and inspired volunteers all over the country to launch grassroots fundraising events to support its mission. Those events included golf tournaments, happy hours, and a benefit concert by legendary singer Michael Feinstein last fall in New York City. Even though he couldn’t attend every event, J.P. was an enthusiastic and supportive cheerleader for all involved. J.P.’s final address to the GCF community, at its annual fall fundraiser, was particularly passionate and inspiring.
May we all draw strength from J.P.’s inspiration to continue his vital work to bring an end to this terrible disease. As Ron puts it, “He is a shining example of the power striving for ideals can do for a person.”