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A New Normal, Re-Visited

Bad weather didn't stop 3,000 people from walking to support the National Brain Tumor Society.

It was a frigid Saturday morning, May 7, at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park. 

The weather didn’t keep anyone away. Instead,  about 3,000 participants prepared to embark on a 5K walk to support the National Brain Tumor Society. The event is held every year in May, Brain Tumor Awareness Month.

Before the 10 a.m. start, participants registered, mingled with others affected by brain tumors, investigated the games and jumpy house for kids and listened to survivors' stories.  

This was our fourth year walking together as a family. I remember our first walk — we pushed all three of our children in strollers the entire route. Two years ago, we walked in the rain.

Every year, I hear the stories of other families affected by brain tumors, and I cry silently, using my sunglasses to hide the tears. I also get inspired by the number of people who are walking for families just like my own.

Kate Burke, a survivor, has been living with a brain tumor for seven years. 

When she was first diagnosed, Burke and her husband and children looked at the statistics and thought she only had months to live, based on her tumor type.

She had another surgery in August, after her tumor returned, and endured a double dose of chemo after. She had a year’s worth of chemo pumped into her body in just six months. 

Kate’s tumor type is so aggressive that she goes to UCSF every four weeks for an MRI to see if her tumor has returned. This year, Kate's “Team Hope” has raised more than $35,000.

She wants people to know that life is about living, not simply waiting around to die. She lives every day with a positive attitude and the belief that anything is possible—including a cure.

Another survivor is Chris Grudner, who was told 14 years ago that he had an inoperable brain tumor and to prepare for the worst. 

He’s still walking around living his life—brain tumor and all. In fact, he now works at the National Brain Tumor Society as director of awareness and is promoting its newest venture, called “Get your Head in the Game,”  which uses social media to keep people informed and involved in brain tumor research. 

For more information visit: www.getyourheadinthegame.org/.

My husband, Dan, will celebrate the fifth anniversary of surviving an oligodendroglioma brain tumor in July. As Dan took in the festivities, our children made signs in honor of the walk and their dad. 

Drew, 7, made a sign that said “We walk for dad!” Jack, 7, made a sign for the walk with our team name, “Funkytown Franks,” and even 5-year-old Aiden, had made his own sign to support our family’s fight to rid the world of brain tumors.

Some participants had custom shirts made with their team names or mottos, like a team from Livermore and Pleasanton that was at the event to support their chief, a brain tumor survivor. 

A 3-year-old boy proudly wore a shirt with the Superman emblem on the front. The back of his shirt had a younger picture of him and the phrase, “I survived brain cancer!” 

Another team had “Cancer Sucks” on the back of their shirts. “Team Toast” wore pretend loaves of bread on their heads and managed to raise more than $65,000.  

Another team came dressed as pirates. 

Why were 3,000 people at the event? Why have team signs and team names?  It’s all about putting faces to the disease and making it real. 

It seems most people know someone who has lived through or died of a brain tumor.

For the last four years, my own family has spent our twins’ birthday weekend walking as a family—rain or shine, hot or cold—in the hope that a definitive cure will come.  Jack, Drew,  Aiden and other families just like ours don’t want statistics, we want a cure! 

For more information about brain tumors or how you can help find a cure, visit www.braintumor.org.

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