Friend for Life

cancer support network

Our History

FFL founders Phil Emerson Bramblette (left) and Charles I. "Chuck" Sandmann were introduced by oncology nurse Judy Hubbs Sisk

The Initial Match

The first match for Friend for Life was the pairing of Phil Bramblette and Chuck Sandmann. Through conversations and discussions of “what ifs,” Phil developed a vision for what could be and should be for patients facing the diagnosis of cancer. He felt that if enough like-minded individuals were to develop a program of support for patients that was based on personal experience, it would offer hope and encouragement to the patient undergoing therapy. I was blessed to have the acquaintance of such a like-minded person and introduced these gentlemen in the stately environs of a Hardees restaurant. One must understand that these connections were made before the convenience of such things as cell phones and email. Phil and Chuck networked and followed multiple leads to talk to people all over the US that had formed similar groups. They put all the pieces together and that resulted in the organization we now know as FFL. This group was built on the faith of “if you build it, they will come” and 20 years later, they are still coming. - Judy Hubbs Sisk

Inception, History and Philosophy Friend for Life is a non-profit, non-affiliated cancer support network originally conceived for newly diagnosed patients. This neophyte organization in the Louisville area has been in existence since 1988, when articles of incorporation and by-laws were adopted in July and tax exempt status was received in September.

The need for such an organization in Louisville was initially investigated in 1986 by Sherrill Thirlwell and Dr. Fran Brennan from the University of Louisville, as an intern program. It was offered to Hospice of Louisville, but subsequently was diverted and became a bereavement module for Hospice. Meanwhile, Phil Bramblette, a Hospice board member and a newly diagnosed cancer patient, was busy investigating support groups locally and elsewhere. In January 1988, Phil contacted Sherrill Thirlwell, Eleanor Dougherty, the first Executive Director of Hospice of Louisville, and Pat Webb, then Assistant Director of Hospice, to evaluate information he had gathered. As work progressed, other health professionals and board members of other cancer-related organizations, became interested in the work being done by Phil Bramblette, who, with co-founder Charles Sandmann, spearheaded the formation of Friend for Life.

In April 1988, a steering committee was formed. This body set about assessing the need for laying the groundwork and establishing the credibility and credentials for a viable support system that would bridge the gap in the existing network of cancer-related organizations in the community. A one-on-one program was needed to fill the void between diagnosis and treatment, with trained volunteers who are medically and emotionally stable. In November 1988, office space was obtained at St. Matthews Baptist Church, the steering committee formally became a board in December 1988, and Joan Steiner was hired as Coordinator of Volunteers. - Pat Webb

Phil Emerson Bramblette 1941 - 1989 Phil was born August 6, 1941 in Savannah, GA to John E. and Leona Carter Bramblette. After the end of WWII, the Bramblette family, including younger brother Ross, moved to Louisville, KY. After Phil graduated from Valley High School in 1959, his family moved out of town but he remained in Louisville, living with the Miller family. He paid his way through college working at Bacon’s (Dixie Hwy) in the shoe department. He obtained a BA in Psychology from UofL in 1963.

In July of 1963, Phil married the former Sally Kauffman and they moved to Bloomington, IN, where he took a position in regional sales for H. J. Heinz. By December of that year, the newlyweds moved back to Louisville and Phil began his career with Blue Cross/Blue Shield as a claims manager. They had two children, David and Natalie, and were later divorced.

In 1965, he ran for the Shively City Council on the Republican ticket. Though not elected, he considered it his civic duty to correspond with Republican representatives at various levels and did so throughout his life. In November of 1972, Phil married the former Linda Shaw. They had one daughter, Tara, and were divorced several years later.

Looking to the future, in the mid 80’s, and wanting to help out a friend, Phil invested in Information Resources, Inc., a data storage and retrieval service. The company is still in existence and successful after more than 25 years. In 1987 he joined D & K Optical and worked as an employee sales trainer up until the day before he died. That same year Phil was diagnosed with cancer, specifically lymphoma. In May of 1988, his only grandchild, granddaughter Monet was born.

Phil was very dedicated to his family, friends, employers and special interests including Friend for Life, which he and his friend Chuck Sandmann co-founded shortly after his diagnosis. - Natalie Bramblette DeNardo

Charles (Chuck) Sandmann 1936-1992 Chuck knew from experience the shock, the loneliness, and the fear that a diagnosis of cancer can bring.

It was October of 1984 when he was told he had advanced testicular cancer that had metastasized throughout his body. Within 24 hours he came close to death with a massive pulmonary embolism caused by the incursion of tumors into the vena cava. At first, he withdrew into himself as he tried to cope. It was many months later, while he was being treated with "salvage chemotherapy" at the IUPUI hospital in Indianapolis, that he met another man with the same diagnosis and began to realize he was not alone.

When Judy Sisk, R.N., suggested that he and Phil Bramblette organize a support group for newly diagnosed cancer patients, Chuck knew this was something he had to do. It was a compelling opportunity to take his experience, his suffering, and make of it something good and positive that would be helpful to others who were facing cancer.

Chuck loved people and felt a special compassion for those who suffered. He was an attorney who brought honesty and integrity into all of his dealings. As many have said of him, he had his priorities in order - he loved his God, he loved his family and he was happy with his practice of law. But of all his accomplishments, and there were many, he would be most pleased with the success of Friend For Life and would be astounded at the organization's 30 years of growth and service. - Mary Eileen Sandmann