Why Donate to Brain Tumor Awareness?
You may have never had a brain tumor. You may not even know anyone who’s had a brain tumor. So why should you donate money to brain tumor awareness? Why should you read any further?
These are fair questions to be asking. One year ago I’d be sitting here asking these same questions. Before you decide whether this is a cause you’d like to promote, I ask that you read my story first.
July 12, 2020. This was the day my life changed forever. I went to sleep that night as a healthy 23 year old man, or so I thought. I woke up later that night in confusion with paramedics standing over me. I was told that I had a grand mal seizure in my sleep. I quickly realized that maybe I wasn’t as healthy as I thought I was.
After visiting with the doctors about the incident, I was told I was healthy as could be. I was scheduled for a precautionary MRI, which would most likely reveal a healthy brain so I can move on with my life.
Not even 10 minutes after I left the MRI center I received a call from the neurologist. I was asked to come in that next morning to discuss results. My wife and I were terrified. Why would they want us to come in so quickly?
That next morning we waited in the doctor’s office for what felt like an eternity. The doctor walked in and explained that a large tumor had been growing on my frontal lobe. I looked to my wife as her eyes filled up with tears and I found myself wondering:
“How could this happen to me? I’ve always put my health first. I've always been the young, active one.”
The only acceptable answer I was given— this can happen to anyone at any time.
I was told that the tumor was rather large, but luckily it was in a “good” spot in my brain. Before I knew it, I was at Duke Brain Tumor Center undergoing brain surgery. They were able to perform a successful craniotomy to remove as much of the tumor as they could see.
While recovering from my brain surgery, my wife and I prayed that was the end of this journey. We hoped that the doctor would call and tell us I’m okay and healthy again— that the tumor was benign and all gone.
Fast forward a few days and the doctors called us to discuss the results of the tumor analysis. We were told that the tumor is a grade 3 glioma. In other words, this tumor is cancerous and fast-growing. After recovering from brain surgery, I was scheduled to begin an intense phase of radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
Radiation and chemo treatment was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through to this point in my life. My treatment was every day— even when I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed or walk into the radiation office. I found myself often thinking about my friends and family through this stage of the process. No matter how tough the process was, I had to push through. Not for me, but for them.
Following my radiation and chemotherapy treatment, I immediately began a second round of chemotherapy— this time higher dosages for a full year. I’m currently in this phase of treatment and will be until the end of 2021. While I don’t have to go in every day for the radiation treatment anymore, the chemo still wears on my body each and every day.
I’m proud to say at this point in my life I have fought through brain surgery. I have fought through months of intense radiation and chemotherapy treatments. I may have fought through these battles, but I’m not done yet. I still have many more battles in me before I win this war with cancer.
Any challenge either breaks you or makes you stronger. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not going to stop until I beat this thing once and for all.
No matter how tough a challenge is, I always try to find the positives. Believe it or not, in this case there are many:
I am young and healthy enough to fight this.
The doctors were able to perform surgery to remove part of the tumor.
I am surrounded by a loving wife and family.
I have some of the best friends a man can ask for. True friends who are with me through the best times and the worst.
I am surrounded by some of the best doctors in the world with some of the best treatments.
This year, I will be pushing myself to overcome another challenge. I will be running a half marathon on May 2, 2021. Before I run this race, my goal is to raise as much money and awareness for brain tumor research.
While I will still be undergoing my chemotherapy treatment during this race, it is something that’s very important to me and I will be finishing this race. Life does not stop when going through chemotherapy. Life does not stop just because you get cancer. Life goes on and you can still do anything you put your mind to.
Enough about me. Now that you know my story, you understand my battle with brain cancer. You understand why this fundraising campaign is so important to me.
This campaign is not about me. This campaign is about helping the future of the brain tumor community. Twenty years ago, I would not have the quality of life I’ve been given. Twenty years from now, I want those that follow in my footsteps to have it better than me.
Just like I can’t beat cancer on my own, I can’t make this future possible on my own either. I need your help to turn this dream into a reality.
At the same time, he was trying to come up with a plan to raise awareness and funds for brain tumor research—and say “thank you” to his doctors at Duke. He is grateful to all his doctors and care providers, especially Grace Kim, MD, PhD, his radiation oncologist. “Dr. Kim was so wonderful that even on the days when I could barely get out of bed I would be happy to go and see her because she was such a happy person,” he said.
He came up with an idea that would allow him to challenge himself and raise money at the same time. He decided to run a half-marathon—in the midst of chemo treatments—to raise money for the Brain Tumor Center.
He also hopes to serve as an example to inspire other cancer patients to be active. “You can still do just about anything you want to do if you put your mind to it,” he said.
Bowen will run the Lake Norman Half Marathon on May 2. Many friends and family members will also run the half marathon (or the 5K held the same day), including his parents, sister, brother, and sister-in-law.
As of mid-April, Bowen and his team had raised just shy of $35,000, and the total was still growing. His original goal was $15,000, but he reached that within hours. “I just keep raising the goal in $5,000 increments,” he said. “Every single dime is going straight to the Brain Tumor Center.” His fundraising website is https://www.wizathon.com/campaigns/1575.
In October, Bowen will also be fielding a team called “MBStrong” for Angels Among Us.
“We are so thankful to McKinnon and his friends and family for their incredible generosity,” said David Ashley, MBBS, FRACP, PhD, director of the Tisch Brain Tumor Center. “The private support we receive from people like McKinnon is critical to our success and makes all the difference in the work being done at Duke.”
Bowen sees supporting research as a way to make a difference in the lives of others. “Brain tumor research has come so far in the last 20 years or so, and I’m so grateful to have the quality of life [my doctors] have given me,” he said. “I want to give back. I want to help those that come after me, so they can have it better than I have it.”