UC Brain Tumor Center Celebrates a Stellar Weekend

Images from Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure: from left, the Purple People Bridge, emcee Kyla Woods of WLWT News 5, survivor Leslie Oliver and friend, and survivor Dr. Michael Wood. Photos by Cindy Starr.

Thousands of individuals were touched by the glow of camaraderie, compassion and support last weekend during two of the UC Brain Tumor Center’s most significant events of the year. On Saturday more than 170 patients, caregivers and family members from six states participated in the Midwest Regional Brain Tumor Conference at the Miami University Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester, Ohio. And on Sunday, 2,350 people from 19 states walked or ran in the Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure at Sawyer Point in downtown Cincinnati.

The fourth annual 5k walk/run, chaired by survivor Brian Wiles and his brother, Joe Wiles, has raised more than $213,000, with proceeds still coming in. But the number of participants and dollars raised were not as exciting to Brian Wiles as the number of teams – 191 – and “the individual stories of hope” they represented. “Walking through the event on Sunday, the sun was shining on each team as they smiled and shed a few tears for their loved ones,” Mr. Wiles reflected.

The event’s new memory quilt, created from team T-shirts, “will provide the symbolic future of hope for the event,” he added.

Proceeds benefit education and research at the Brain Tumor Center, one of nine centers of excellence within the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, one of four institutes of the UC College of Medicine and UC Health. Cumulative funds raised since 2010 have surpassed $700,000.

These funds enable patients and families to attend the Brain Tumor Conference at no cost while also fueling basic research into the major pathways used by cancer genes and the specific proteins that play a role in the spread of cancer cells. Researchers at the UC Brain Tumor Center are also using Walk Ahead funds to study compounds that inhibit the ability of cancer cells to utilize energy, with the hope of converting such compounds into promising new medications.

The Brain Tumor Conference, which was sold out, included 20 speakers, 16 volunteers, and exhibitors from 12 organizations. Registrants came from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland and Arizona. Following presentations about wellness, patients and their families broke into 90-minute question and answer sessions related to specific brain tumor diagnoses (glioma, acoustic neuroma, meningioma and pituitary tumors). The conference was directed by Luke Pater, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the UC Brain Tumor Center.

The morning sessions, which focused on self-empowerment through wellness, were led by Stefanie Stevenson, MD, (above right) Adjunct Assistant Professor and Clinical Director of Integrative Medicine at UC Health, and Sian Cotton, PhD, (above left) Associate Professor and Director of Integrative Medicine at UC Health. Topics included the anti-inflammatory diet, stress reduction, the mind-body-connection and food as medicine.

Dr. Stevenson encouraged the audience to:

•    Eat “a rainbow” of fruits and vegetables by choosing foods of different colors, such as red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow squash, green broccoli and spinach, blueberries and purple grapes and cabbage.
•    Eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and strive for 6 to 8 servings.
•    Choose healthy fats high in plant-based omega 3, including olive oil and canola oil, nuts, flaxseed, avocado, wild salmon and sardines.
•    Avoid or minimize consumption of foods that contain environmental toxins and excess calories, such as charred, pickled and salt-cured meats.

Dr. Cotton demonstrated the mind-body connection during an interactive exercise. After asking audience members to close their eyes, she described – in a slow, deliberate, soothing voice – the act of holding, contemplating, and then slicing a lemon. After the audience was asked to raise the imaginary lemon slice to their lips, she asked how many actually salivated. Dozens of hands went up.

The power of mind-body connection means that patients must take an active role in minimizing stress, Dr. Cotton said.  “Stress is harmful when it is constant in patients who are fighting cancer,” she said.

Meditation, yoga and deep breathing can help. She led audience members in a breathing exercise, in which they imagined slowly breathing in air up through three compartments: a lower compartment in the abdomen, a middle compartment in the lower chest, and an upper compartment in the upper chest. Air would be exhaled in reverse, starting with the top compartment and extending to the bottom. “The power of deep breathing cannot be overestimated,” Dr. Cotton said.

At the conclusion of the conference, attendees headed over to the Precision Radiotherapy Center for a tour of the West Chester facility and a look at its three state-of-the-art radiotherapy technologies. There, attendees also were treated to a healthy and delicious lunch by Chef Suzy DeYoung of La Petite Pierre: a salad of quinoa, beans and squash coupled with wheat-flour wraps filled with chicken and kale.

— Cindy Starr

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