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There’s nothing quite like a shocking medical diagnosis – “We strongly suspect that this could be cancer” – to reboot a person’s entire outlook. Molly Lindquist just never expected her new perspective would provide such a lofty view.

Still, there she was, at the summit of Mount St. Helens, more than 8,300 feet above sea level and not quite four years beyond the day that threatened to make this hike – and every other day – an impossibility. Standing there, on top of an active volcano, the Cascade Mountains rolling off into the distance like waves toward the horizon, Molly found herself on solid ground. Finally.

Her challenging climb to the top of the mountain – inspired by Molly’s friends and made possible by her new-found “carpe diem mentality” described in a blog she published in The Huffington Post – mirrored the exhausting trial she had just endured. There were lessons learned during the hike that reinforced what she’d learned winning her battle against breast cancer.

“Create a plan.”

“No matter how impossible the terrain, keep moving forward.”

“Remember to breathe.”

“Don’t do it alone.”

Upon descending the volcano, Molly went right back to work battling cancer, only this time not as a patient but an activist. She’d already won her personal fight, through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy; now, she’d made it her mission to help others win theirs. Like climbing a volcano, no one, she figured, should have to do it alone.

Which is why she launched Consano, named for the Latin verb “to heal.” Consano is a crowdfunding platform created to raise financial support for targeted medical research projects and programs. Donors can support a program, which has been vetted by Consano’s Scientific Advisory Board, which focuses on an aspect of an illness that resonates with them.

In Molly’s case, she wanted to support research into and treatment of the specific form of breast cancer that she suffered – for two very specific reasons.

“I wanted to help my daughters avoid getting cancer when they are my age,” said Molly, who was diagnosed just before her 33rd birthday.

Since its founding in 2012, Consano has raised more than $900,000 for a range of projects, focusing on everything from cancer to diabetes to Celiac disease.

“We have our most luck with rare diseases,” said Molly.

Some of Consano’s most successful crowdfunding campaigns have raised:

• More than $20,000 to find “a more effective and less toxic treatment strategy for children with anaplastic Wilms Tumor,” a pediatric cancer of the kidneys.
• $25,000 for a study that examines the Role of Vitamin D Supplements in Colorectal Cancer.
• $27,000 for Bloom Syndrome, a disorder which features genomic instability and signals a person’s predisposition to cancer.
• $50,000 to find a cure for DIPG: Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gilomas, which are brain tumors found primarily in children. At the moment, it’s considered 100% lethal.

Not surprisingly, Consano’s approach has been embraced by the medical community, where the competition for research funding is brutal. “We’ve given them a new way to pitch their work,” said Molly, “not to a granting body but to the general public.”

It makes perfect sense. Over the last few years, crowdfunding has generated more funding than venture capital. Crowdfunding raised an estimated $16 billion worldwide in 2014, another $34 in 2015, and was expected to exceed that in 2016, fueling industries from the movie-making to manufacturing, hospitality to healthcare.

Even potato salad got a boost from the crowdfunding groundswell.

In 2014, a man from Columbus, OH, went on a crowdfunding site seeking a $10 investment to make the perfect potato salad. What began as a lark wound up going viral.

“All of a sudden,” Molly said, “people are donating $5 to get a copy of the recipe, $10 for a taste. ”

The guy raised $55,000, prompting him to throw a potato salad party dubbed Potato Stock. That’s a lot of potato salad, but it’s a success story Molly takes very seriously. She wrestles constantly with the challenge of virality, trying to spread the word of Consano’s unique mission beyond the personal networks of families already suffering through a deadly diagnosis.

“This is different than a YouCaring page,” said Molly, noting that Consano doesn’t raise funds for personal medical expenses or to support a family that lost its financial footing due to medical bills. Instead, she calls it a “Pay It Forward tool.”

“These families are using their story to channel hope that no one else will have to go through what they did,” Molly said.

That’s the lesson that continues to drive Molly, in her personal life and her work at Consano, teaming researchers and donors together in pursuit of a shared goal: defeating disease. It’s the same lesson she learned through her own treatment, and learned again during that hard hike up Mount St. Helens.

No one makes it up the mountain and back alone.

Visit Molly’s Flipgive fundraising page below to donate directly or to Shop & Support Consano.

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