Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Race For Hope: Remembering Grandma Five Years On

There's a scourge that afflicts thousands of Americans each year. In 2014, my family was a victim.

Earlier this year, STAT - a news site focused on health, medicine, and scientific discovery - wrote that:

About 14,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common form of adult brain cancer, every year. It will kill all but 15 percent within five years. Barely half live 18 months. Of two dozen experimental drugs tested in clinical trials for newly diagnosed glioblastoma in the last decade, zero improved survival. The last drug to do so, by an average of about two months, was temozolomide, approved in 2005. The newest treatment, based on electrical fields, bought patients an average of five more months.

Arizona Senator John McCain's 13-month battle brought the disease to the forefront in 2018. For my family, his fight was a poignant reminder of the cancer's devastating effects.

This past week, Marilyn, my maternal grandmother, would have turned 82 years old. She would have had she not succumbed to glioblastoma. 

I was very close to my grandmother. She shared my interest in our family's history, and loved recounting her childhood on the Kansas prairie. Portraits of her life are my favorite stories to tell, including the discovery of an heirloom at the farmstead where she was born, how she met my grandfather, and her efforts to earn her high school diploma before turning 40

In a March 2014 oral history interview, she summed the shape of our bond: "You and I, I know we can communicate. We have a bond that will never be broken, and I know that as well as I live and breathe. I love all of my kids and grandkids equally, but there are souls that meet on the same level. You just know when you're really tied into someone and, Michael, we're tied.

Two months later, my grandmother was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme. After a nearly five-month fight, she passed away. She was brilliant and her loss was a gut-wrenching blow. 

Her battle was difficult because there were few effective medical treatments available. It's a wicked torment to have no options, especially when you love life like she did.

Understandably, finding meaningful treatments and a cure is an important cause to me. And I'm doing something about it. 

In May 2019, five years after my grandmother's diagnosis, I am participating in the Race for Hope in Washington, DC

Each of my steps will be in her memory, but with hope to spare others from this cruel fate.


  1. I am so sorry about your grandmother, Michael. I lost my first cousin Jeff to the same awful disease; he was only 57 at the time and left behind two children not yet teenagers. And, of course, Teddy Kennedy also died from glioblastoma. It doesn't matter how young or old or how famous or rich you are. The end result is the same.

    1. Thank you, Amy. I appreciate it.

      It was only after my family had to deal with this that I started to realize how many folks' lives had been touched by it. All the more reason for greater research!

  2. Michael, Thank you for sharing your story of the special bond that you and your grandmother shared. I was very impressed with her insight into explaining equal love for all the grands but also acknowledging that she and you had a special bond, the love of family history. I am sure that she was impressed with all that you did. But, wow, she would have been even more impressed with what you have accomplished in the area of family history in the few years we have been in touch. Believe that there was a link for donating to finding the cure for blastoma which is touching my family at this time. I will make a donation (in your name if possible). As always you published a great story. This time with a wonderful pic of your late GM. Happy Holidays and happy memories, Mary

    1. I'm sorry to hear that your family is facing this right now, and I'm sending well wishes and prayers.

      My grandmother certainly helped nurture the family history bug. And I'm mighty fortunate to have had the foresight to sit down and record her memories on family history.