By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month. The ribbon color is gray because gray matters. On Saturday, June 10 at 11 a.m. you can help the cause by participating in the first ever Wander to Wonder 5K Walk at Castleton University. There will be signs around campus directing where to go; or GPS the address: 338 South Street Castleton, VT 05735. It’s $20 to enter and kids walk for free.
Registration begins at 10 a.m., opening ceremonies and music begin at 10:45 a.m., the race starts at 11 a.m., with closing ceremonies at 2:30 p.m. They will be providing water and light snacks before and after the walk. Visit nbtsevents.braintumor.org/event/wander-to-wonder-5k-walk/e169333 to register or to donate.
The walk was started by Alyssa Audet who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2016. I had the pleasure of speaking with her to learn about her story and thankfully, it has a happy ending, since she’s a survivor. This is the first walk ever in Vermont to benefit the National Brain Tumor Society, to which all proceeds will go. They will be using the money to help find a cure. Audet attended a walk last fall in Boston that benefited the NBTS. She contacted the New England regional director who helped her set up this website for her event.
Audet has received positive feedback from the community for this walk. She has already raised $2,700 with a goal of $10,000. She said, “I feel that after being diagnosed with it, doing this walk is part of my journey and helping me heal.” She hopes that this walk grows every year.
In August 2016 when Audet was 27, she had a seizure and went to the hospital to find out she had a mass on her brain. She next went to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire and found out it was a brain tumor and it required surgery. She had a nine hour brain surgery where they removed 90 percent of the tumor. The other 10 percent was treated with radiation and oral chemotherapy. She has no cognitive or physical issues from it, but she suffered a lot of fatigue and had to rebuild her immune system after the chemo.
Right before the seizure, she and her now-husband Aaron went to California to get married. She was having dizzy spells out there and thought it was just from altitude sickness or jet lag. She came back to Vermont and two weeks later, suffered the seizure. She said, “I didn’t think that two weeks after getting married, I would suffer a brain tumor. It was a shock. I never had any headaches, once, ever.”
She was surprised to learn of three people in her community that suffered brain tumors as well. She said, “When I was growing up I did a lot of breast cancer walks because that’s something that ran in my family. Everyone knows someone that was affected by breast cancer, but brain tumors don’t seem to be something that are heard of, really.”
Each year more than 23,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with brain cancer and other nervous system cancers, according to federal statistics. These cancers make up a portion of the nearly 78,000 brain tumors diagnosed each year in this country. There are many types of brain and spinal cord tumors. The tumors are formed by the abnormal growth of cells and may be either benign or malignant. Benign brain and spinal cord tumors grow and press on nearby areas of the brain. They rarely spread into other tissues and may recur. Malignant brain and spinal cord tumors are likely to grow quickly and spread into other brain tissue.
When a tumor grows into or presses on an area of the brain, it may stop that part of the brain from working the way it should. Both benign and malignant brain tumors produce signs and symptoms and need treatment. Tumors that start in the brain are called primary brain tumors. Primary brain tumors may spread to other parts of the brain or to the spine, but rarely spread to other parts of the body. Often, tumors found in the brain have started somewhere else in the body and spread to one or more parts of the brain. These are called metastatic brain tumors. About half of these tumors are from lung cancer.
The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program estimates that more than 16,830 people in the U.S. will die from brain and other nervous system cancers in 2018. Brain tumors are the most common cancer in children.
Audet is a survivor and said, “Every day is a blessing and you just don’t know what tomorrow brings so just be thankful. Anything can happen in an instant.”