Charity: American Brain Tumor Association

*In celebration of the organizations who work day-in and day-out to help and protect those in need, Her Campus Emerson has decided to dedicate all of our content this week to organizations that are important to us.

(Note: Parts of the story I’m about to tell you are from second-hand accounts. I was too young then to honestly remember what was going on and how it was affecting my family. A lot of this is retrospective recounts and should be treated as such.)

When I was eight, I remember my mom and dad returning from a trip to Key West, FL. My mom went for business, and she brought my dad along, so my sister and I stayed with our grandparents while they were away. I missed them both terribly, and my sister and I stood eagerly at the exit of the arrivals gate, waiting for their familiar faces to appear. My grandparents lingered at the back of the room, leaning against the wall and keeping a watchful eye.

As another clump of dazed passengers flooded out, my unusually-tall self caught a glimpse of my mom’s manicured hand up in the air, frantically waving. I grinned and grabbed my sister's hand as we pushed through and charged towards where my parents were bobbing through the crowd. As the mosh parted, we hugged my mom then looked behind her where my father was catching up, using a cane to balance.

I remember that moment when a hundred thoughts flashed through my mind. What happened? Did he fall? Twist his ankle? Get attacked by something? I walked toward my Dad apprehensively, as I anxiously eyed his third leg.

He smiled at me, with the warm eyes that always made me feel safe and happy--but something was off. I knew my father had a brain tumor--ever since I was two years old. But he’d had the surgery, done the chemotherapy, and there were moments I tricked myself into believing he was healthy, “normal,” and fine. But the cane scared me. My dad covered it in neon, floral, and surf stickers from Key West (very like my dad, by the way), but nevertheless, it shocked me. My mom said it was so they could walk on the beach easier and that dad needed help sometimes standing and navigating uneven spaces, so they picked up the cane at a drugstore. It was just temporary, she said.

My dad was more comfortable with it, though, and over the months and years, he became more dependent on canes, rails, and eventually wheelchairs. The surgery from years ago had damaged his motor skills, and his depth perception was wonky and led him to fall suddenly. Not to mention the seizures which would occasionally happen out of the blue like a bad dream. This was normal for me though, and my family lived with the reality of a brain tumor for years.

My dad died on a Thursday in July, a month before I started high school. We all knew it was coming. His tumor returned the prior spring, and family and friends from far and wide came to sit at his bedside, reminisce, and  hold his hand. But there wasn’t anything else we could do. And even 14 year old me knew that much.

My dad was given a survival timeline of 6 months to 2 years. But he lived for 11 years after diagnosis. My father’s amazing survival rate was almost solely due to the generous help of the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA). Over the years after my dad ’s diagnoses, my mom got involved with my hometown’s chapter of the group and helped host highly successful fundraisers to support brain tumor research.

Not only does ABTA support research and cutting-edge treatment options, but they’re also a hub for information and a support network for the newly diagnosed and afraid. After my dad’s initial diagnoses, their literature and support line helped my mom make sense of the confusing medical jargon and frightening timelines. They showed my mom treatment options and ways to get help when she needed it most. I have the ABTA largely to thank for my dad’s amazing endurance. Without their help and guidance, we would have been completely lost.

The ABTA’s mission is to support caregivers and patients alike and to be a rock for those faced with the frightening diagnoses of a brain tumor. They provide literature, resources, guidance, support, and funding for research to find a cure.

For those looking to get involved, there are a ton of options. For one, volunteer! They have an incredibly successful 5K program which has raised over $17 million since its beginning in 2006. Volunteers are what make these events possible and successful, so finding an event near you to either volunteer at or participate in is a huge help! Also, if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, share your story— it helps the Association continue its hard work and get funding. Lastly, donate or fundraise to help continue critical research that will eventually help us end this terminal illness.

This year marks 6 years since we lost my dad, and I honestly cannot believe it’s been so long. I get sad occasionally, but I remember how carefree he was—  how happy and laid-back. And I know there are good people out there continuing to fight the good fight and that my dad’s death wasn’t in vain. Someday, with the help and support of people near and far, we’ll be able to end the loss of amazing people like my father. I know the ABTA will be a critical part of making that happen.

If you’d like to get involved or to learn more about the ABTA, click the link here! It takes good people like us all to make change happen.

(All facts and statistics were pulled from the American Brain Tumor Association’s website)