Hello, and Happy New Year! I hope you had a healthy holiday season and that all of your dreams come true in 2024.
Following are five highlights from 2023:
Highlight #1: Working for the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) – Community Events
After spending eight years recovering from brain cancer (and a few other medical issues), I returned to the workforce. I joined the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) staff in April as the first Western Region Community Manager! I have to admit the transition was challenging due to severe fatigue. However, I truly love what I do and I know how blessed I am to be able to do it.
In May, I had the opportunity to represent the ABTA at the 23rd Annual UCLA Brain Tumor Conference. As you may recall, my craniotomy took place at UCLA and I continue to see my neuro-oncologist there so it was truly surreal to participate in this capacity).
In the adjacent photo, I’m with Dr. Timothy Cloughesy (who among other things directs the neurology-oncology program at UCLA and co-directs the UCLA Brain Tumor Center. He also happens to be my neuro-oncologist). Shawna is in the photo too. She is a long-time ABTA volunteer and mentor. As a 16-year Glioblastoma (GBM) survivor she offers hope to those who are newly diagnosed with GBM which is needed since it is the most aggressive form of brain cancer and accompanied by a bleak prognosis for most.
That same month I had a chance to represent the ABTA at a special Brain Tumor Awareness event hosted by Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI). Below I’m pictured (from left to right) with Dr. Garni Barkhoudarian (Associate Professor of Neuroscience/ Neurosurgery, Director of PNI /SJCI Multidisciplinary Neuroanatomy and Surgical Skills Laboratory among other things) and Dr. Akanksha Sharma (neuro-oncologist and palliative medicine specialist). I’m truly in awe of these neuroscience celebrities and pretty much anyone who chooses to enter the field. During the event, I also got to visit with Maria Quiban (Morning Meteorologist on Fox 11 Good Day L.A. and author of “You Can’t Do It Alone“).
On December 8, I was delighted to represent the ABTA at the 1st Annual Southern California Brain Tumor Conference hosted by the USC Brain Tumor Center!
This conference brought together seven institutions across Southern California (Cedars Sinai, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, City of Hope, Keck Medicine of USC, Pacific Neuroscience Institute, UC Irvine Health, and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA) to share results from each of their latest research findings, clinical trials, and vital treatments for brain tumors.
In my humble opinion, this was a remarkable demonstration of the kind of collaboration and leadership that will be necessary to find a cure for brain tumors/brain cancer. Below I’m pictured at the event with Angel (Brain Tumor Companion), Dr. Gabriel Zada (Director of the USC Brain Tumor Center among other things), and Dr. Josh Neman (Scientific Director of the USC Brain Tumor Center among other things).
Highlight #2: Working for the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) – California BT5Ks
Talk about mind-blowing. I remember first learning about the ABTA’s Breakthrough for Brain Tumor 5K (BT5K) events after my craniotomy. Since I had to relearn how to walk and talk and was easily overstimulated by crowds, sounds, and various lights it took me a couple of years but I finally attended my first one in 2018 with my BFF, Sally (photos below). I credit the desire to participate in the BT5K that year with inspiring me to increase my endurance from barely walking three blocks on my own to gaining the strength to walk a 5K (just over three miles).
Fast-forward to October and November of 2023 and I was responsible for the oversight of both the Los Angeles and San Francisco BT5K events. There were a few times that I had to pause during the last few months and take in how far I’ve come (thanks to the support of those around me). It was a lot but everything worked out great.
The numbers are still being finalized but it looks like after pretty much starting from scratch and assembling BT5K Host Committees for each event we were able to grow the 2023 L.A. event revenue over 2022 event revenue by around 48%. We also increased participation by 77% and sponsorship grew by 61%.
The S.F. event revenue grew by approximately 27% while event participation increased by 37% and sponsorship grew by 77%.
Team “2nd Chance 2 Live” was back at it too. We were small but mighty this year. We achieved Top Team status again and raised $2,670 via the L.A. BT5K (and approximately $15,000 since 2018)!
A huge shout out to our 2023 team members: Todd Angelucci (and Timber), Kathy Alexander, Craig Alexander, Beverly Evanson, Derek Evanson, Luis Santana, Noé Santana (and our honorary team members: Bonnie, Dr. Sara Bellum of Behold the Pom, Dr. Linda Liau, and Maria Quiban)!
Note: Dr. Liau pictured with me in the upper right-hand corner is my neurosurgeon. She chairs UCLA’s neurosurgery department, and is co-director of the UCLA Brain Tumor Center among many other things). Dr. Liau was captain of the UCLA Brain Tumor Team which had 26 members and raised nearly $5,400!
We have a huge amount of gratitude for all who supported us! Thanks in part to events like these, the ABTA has been able to provide more than $34 million in vital research grants. The money raised via the BT5Ks also helps the ABTA offer valuable services and support programs to patients and caregivers free of charge. I’m very proud of what we are accomplishing. The following recap was borrowed from a recent MindMatters publication. Click HERE to read the full article.
In 2023, the ABTA:
- Served more than 100,000 patients and caregivers through its programs and services
- Hosted its National Conference in person and online with a record-breaking 1,400 attendees
- Exceeded 1,000 patient and caregiver matches through its Patient & Caregiver Mentor Support Program
- Funded $1.3 million in research grants and fellowships (the most funded since 2012!)
To further accelerate research discoveries and improve the lives of patients, the ABTA also launched its five-year, $50 million Meet Hope Head On campaign in March. The goal: triple the ABTA’s research investment, double the number of patients served, and double federal funding for brain tumor research.
Highlight #3: VoyageLA feature
In October (just in time for the L.A. BT5K), I had the honor of being interviewed by Sid Reddy editor of VoyageLA. Below is a snapshot. The full article can be read by clicking on the link above or the image below.
Highlight #4: Twist Out Cancer
I was honored to participate as an “inspiration” for this event which featured 34 works of art inspired by “34 inspirational journeys with cancer.”
Naimah Thomas was the artist I was paired with. We met virtually over six months and she created the incredible piece below. Naimah’s artist statement (which I love) is in the upper left corner of the photo collage below and she and I are pictured together beneath it. In the upper right-hand corner, Noé and I are pictured with Leslie (my boss), and next to me is my wonderful colleague, Lily. I was so happy they were able to join us.
While in Chicago, Noé and I met with my dad’s cousin Elaine Soloway (pictured below on the left) it was our first time meeting in person. Not only is Elaine a talented writer (she authored “The Division Street Princess: A Memoir” and “Bad Grandma and Other Chapters In A Life Lived Out Loud” among several other books, blogs, and articles). She has led a very interesting life, has tattoos on both her shoulders, and is a real sweetheart!
Additionally, we squeezed in time to meet with my former colleague and good friend, Faith (pictured below in the middle and on the right). It was wonderful to have a chance to connect and catch up with Faith (who is now a mom to three little ones).
Highlight #5: “A Face of Strength” Campaign
Just a reminder that I’m still running the “A Face of Strength” campaign. So far, around 250 images have been created toward the self-imposed goal of 365. This is a social media awareness campaign designed to celebrate and memorialize the inspiration, strength, and wisdom of those impacted by brain tumors and cancer. The purpose of the campaign is to spread awareness, put a face to the disease, provide inspiration, offer hope, showcase the urgent need for a cure, and help establish a digital footprint for those who want one. It can be utilized to celebrate survivors and to memorialize those whose lives were lost. Following are the links to view the images:
Link to the “A Face of Strength” campaign participation forms: https://2ndchance2live.com/afaceofstrength/
Thank you for following my blog, I sincerely appreciate your time and interest.