Our story began in January of 2010, when Brian’s sister, Jennifer, went to her local doctor complaining of a headache. The doctor treated her for a sinus infection and sent her on her way. As the headache persisted, she went to an eye doctor, who told her they needed to change her prescription. But after a few days of dealing with intense pain in her head, she went to the emergency room where a CT Scan was taken. The CT Scan showed a large tumor on the right temporal lobe of her brain. She was taken from her local hospital in New Hampshire to the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts where, two days later, she had surgery to remove a golf ball size tumor. After the surgery, Jennifer’s surgeon informed us that he was able to remove the entire visible tumor but it would be a week before the pathology results would give her more specifics. Since her pre- and post-op neurological exams revealed no decrease in any neurological function, she was able to come home from the hospital only two days after brain surgery.

For the next week, while we awaited the results, we searched the Internet for any information on brain tumors that we could find. We knew walking into that post-operative meeting that there’s a range in the aggressiveness of brain tumors. At the post-operative meeting, Jennifer’s doctor informed us that what she had was a Grade 4 Glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain cancer out there. At diagnosis, Jennifer was 31-years old, and married 2 ½ years to Tom Duffett. Together they had a 4 month-old baby boy, Sean. The doctors were quick to point out the positives in her situation. Jennifer was very young to have this type of cancer, which typically affects older people. The surgeon was able to operate and remove the entire visible tumor and she did not have any decrease of neurological function, before or after the surgery. The doctor suggested that she begin the standard of care (33 radiation treatments coinciding with 6 weeks of oral chemotherapy) and start looking into the possibility of a clinical trial, which could help her to be one of the outliers, living decades with this disease. As of April 2010, Jennifer completed the standard treatment with flying colors and is now pursuing information about clinical trials.

Throughout the whole process, Jennifer has remained positive and willing to fight. Her family and friends have, and continue to, rally around her in support. As disheartened as we were to learn that there is still no cure for brain cancer, we couldn’t help but wonder what else we could be doing for her and for others like her, who continue to fight this terrible disease. We learned that although brain cancer does not metastasize to other areas of the body, the problem in treating this type of cancer lies with the ability for the doctors to get the proper drugs through, and have them remain inside, the blood-brain barrier, a natural defense mechanism that keeps drugs out of the brain. Even with 190,000 people in the United States being diagnosed each year with a primary or metastatic brain tumor, there is still no cure. But on the horizon are many new and promising clinical trials, and research is being conducted with the single goal of finding a cure.

Because of this, the Gray Matters Brain Cancer Foundation was formed in March 2010, by Brian & Katherine Stewart. Our goal is to help raise awareness of brain cancer, its symptoms, and treatment, allowing patients to be diagnosed earlier and have improved outcomes. We will also work with medical professionals to fund targeted research that ultimately will find a cure to this disease.

We thank you for taking the time to visit our site and we know that with your help, together we WILL make a difference in the fight against brain cancer.

Brian D. Stewart
Katherine Stewart

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