An Evening of Inspiration: Heroes of Glioblastoma Multiforme Honored for Their Dedication

People from around the country, including actress and 16-year cancer survivor Fran Drescher , came to CURE's GBM Heroes event, honoring those who made an impact in the world of glioblastoma multiforme.
BY Katie Kosko
PUBLISHED November 19, 2016
Dozens of people from all around the country gathered for the second Annual Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Heroes Awards to honor three individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping patients suffering from glioblastoma, as well as their families.

Actress, best-selling author and 16-year uterine cancer survivor Fran Drescher took the stage to pay tribute to these heroes. Her main message for the heroes and audience was that we all need to be our own advocates, especially when it comes to our health.

“I realized that what happened to me, has happened to millions of Americans by means of misdiagnosis and mistreatment,” said Drescher.

The awards ceremony, held Nov. 18 in Scottsdale, Arizona, during the 21st Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society of Neuro-Oncology (SNO), was led by CURE co-founder and two-time cancer survivor Kathy LaTour, who introduced each one of the heroes.

“I believe in the power of inspiration and the energy of inspiration to be in a room where people are so inspired to make a difference in people’s lives and this is something we can take home with us,” said LaTour.

The event was hosted by CURE Media Group, publishers of CURE magazine, and sponsored by Novocure.

“As I look out into the audience, with virtual certainty, I can say that cancer has touched all of our lives one way or another,” said Erik Lohrmann, vice president of CURE Media Group. “As someone who has seen what GBM can do to a patient and family I would like to personally thank and recognize our heroes tonight. You’ve all been instrumental in your role in the GBM space and after tonight I am confident that you will only further your efforts to help those that are suffering with GBM.”

Drescher, best known for her portrayal of the lovable Miss Fine on CBS’s hit series The Nanny, which she created and executive produced, earned her two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations. After her cancer diagnosis, she made it her mission to turn her pain into purpose. Her first step was writing the best-selling book titled Cancer Schmancer. But after speaking with many patients and survivors while on the road, she then took a step further to create the non-profit Cancer Schmancer Movement, which focuses on three prongs to fight the disease: early detection, prevention and advocacy. Part of that advocacy work also has Drescher taking her mission to Capitol Hill, where she continues to push for a range of health issues.

She credits her cousin, Susan, for saving her life. Shortly after her surgery, Susan came out to Los Angeles to visit, but during lunch began to choke. Quickly jumping into action, Drescher performed the Heimlich maneuver. Drescher says that in that moment, she finally began to feel like her old self again – giving her the momentum to get out there and help others in their cancer journey.

The 2016 GBM Heroes, who were nominated by caregivers, physicians and advocates are:

Gary Mervis

In 1979, Gary Mervis’ life was turned upside down. It was at this time that his youngest daughter, Teddi, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at just 9 years old. A few short years later, she lost her battle with cancer. But it was Teddi who inspired Mervis to found Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc., a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to improve the quality of life for children and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges. Opened 37 years ago by Mervis, Camp Good Days and Special Times has served campers from 22 states and 34 countries. Based in Mendon, New York, the camp is free of charge to all who attend, a promise Mervis made years ago knowing the financial burden that cancer can have on a family.

Louis Constine, M.D., University of Rochester Medical Center, who presented Mervis with the award said, “He is noble, he is generous of spirit, he has enriched countless children and he has enriched our world. No one is more deserving of this award.”

Adding to that Constine said, “The death of one’s child rips the soul from a parent. It rocks a foundation from which they embrace the world. It creates an unrelenting sadness. But Teddi’s tragedy gave birth to a path forward for 47,000 children. This is the number who have been enlivened and spiritually enriched by Camp Good Days and Special Times.”

Dellann Elliott Mydland

Dellann Elliott Mydland began her mission to help patients suffering from GBM 14 years ago. She and her late husband, Christopher Stewart Elliott, founded the EndBrainCancer Initiative (EBCI) shortly before his death from GBM in 2002. Since then, she has worked to provide patients with immediate access to top brain cancer specialists, including neurosurgeons and advanced treatments/clinical trials via a one-on-one personalized “Direct Connect” approach. She is also the driving force behind EBCI’s goals to create effective changes in public health policy and Standard of Care for brain cancer.

Tina Emerson-Hoffman, who nominated Dellann, works with her every day and has seen firsthand the hard work she puts in to make sure patients have the resources they need.

 As she presented Dellann with her award, she called her “my personal GBM hero.”

“Dellann jumps in with both feet, without hesitation and takes action doing everything she can to find the best clinical trials for patients, the best ‘plan b’ for them” said Emerson-Hoffman. “And she does it with determination and selflessness.”

“I have seen so many caregivers, who are at their wits end. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know who to talk to, you don’t know who to ask. And she will say, ‘call me, any time.’ And she really, really means it.”

Sumul N. Raval, M.D.

Sumul Raval, M.D., is one of the few neuro-oncologists who brings world-class care to families in their own backyard. With a hope to get patients state-of-the art care without having to travel so far, he founded and serves as the director of the David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center at Monmouth Medical Center, which is New Jersey’s first facility specializing in brain tumors. What started out as treating patients in New Jersey, has turned into patients coming from not only the West Coast of the United States, but also as far as Turkey. The power of social media and cancer message boards has skyrocketed his name into the GBM community.

Judy Zocchi, whose late husband was treated by Raval, helped him name the center just 20-months after her husband’s death.

“We continued to work together while he built a center that offers cutting-edge care for brain tumor patients in their own community,” she said. “He always is a support in spirit, financially and personally, even involving his wife and children to help in patient support programs offered through the center.”

In presenting Raval with his award she recalled his tireless efforts, “No matter how busy his schedule is, if you are a brain tumor patient, he will make the time, no matter what.”
 
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