Thursday, September 28, 2023

Weir: Brain cancer — a silent killer

Left to right: Bob and Judy Johannesen, hosts of the fundraiser; Gail Garcelon, President of Glenn Garcelon Foundation and Trent Tice, board member in charge of the Glenn Garcelon Golf Classic.

How many people have you known that played an important role in your life, and then were suddenly taken by death, or were forced to accept a slow, but certain demise? I’ve often wondered if I’d rather it occurred quickly, or would I accept any amount of physical hardship as long as I could cling to life a little longer. Several years ago, Jimmy Lupo, a good buddy of mine, was a handsome, athletic guy with a ready smile and a positive outlook on life. Jimmy was a “shirt off his back” type; someone who personified the word friend. He was 40 years old, married with children and looking forward to a long and happy future. My wife and I socialized regularly with the Lupos and planned many of our events with them in mind. Whenever we got together we’d engage in the usual gibes about who was better at this or that sport; always with good-natured humor.

One evening, as my wife and I were having a dinner party at our Long Island home, we were waiting for the Lupos to arrive. Jim was attending a business meeting and planned on picking up his wife on the way to our place. When I lifted the phone, I expected it was Jim, calling to say he was on his way. Instead, his wife said he had suffered a seizure during the meeting and was taken to a hospital. When you hear something like that, and you know how strong, healthy and vibrant the person is, it just doesn’t seem to compute. A seizure? How is that possible? To say we were stunned is a major understatement. We soon learned that Jim had a tumor growing in his brain, and it had grown enough to create the convulsion that incapacitated him. A subsequent operation couldn’t remove all of the growth, so he was destined for medication and a life span cut very short. The following story stirs me emotionally because I watched my best friend die during the prime of his life.

This past Saturday evening, my wife and I, along with some friends, attended a fundraiser at the Copper Canyon home of Bob and Judy Johannesen. The special guest at the event was Gail Garcelon, President of Glenn Garcelon Foundation. The 501c3 nonprofit was started in 2010 in honor of her husband Glenn F. Garcelon, who passed away in 2008 following a 3 ½ year battle with brain cancer. The goal of the Foundation is: “to pay it forward; to take the lessons of love, warmth, support and compassion, which was learned from Glenn, and make a difference in the lives of others.” Glenn Garcelon was the Branch Manager of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) in Denton County. “He was one of those special people who always worked to make life better for others,” said Ms. Johannesen. “Glenn was an avid volunteer, going the extra mile to help those in need. He also worked with the blind and with hospice through the Stevens Ministry in his church,” she added.

When Mr. Garcelon suffered a seizure and, after an operation, was told that surgeons were unable to remove the entire growth, his family began to realize the financial drain involved in obtaining treatment for brain cancer. Johannesen said she always thought that if someone had health insurance, it would take care of everything. “But, when you have cancer, that’s not the case,” she said lamentably. The Foundation’s mission, “Empowering and Supporting Brain Tumor Patients,” provides money for research, but is also used to directly impact families to help them deal with the financial drain associated with the disease. Monies from the foundation can be used for mortgage payments, groceries, gas, to go back and forth to the hospital, medical equipment, hospice in-home care, etc.

“This Foundation helps take care of the day-to-day essentials each family requires. If the breadwinner is the one that got the cancer and can’t work any longer these extra things are vital for the family’s survival,” Johannesen said. In order to raise funds to supply those needs, a golf tournament has been held for the past 7 years, featuring prizes for various levels of play and a sumptuous dinner. The 8th annual Glenn Garcelon Golf Classic will be held on April 7th at Tour 18 in Flower Mound.

The insidious nature of brain cancer is particularly frightening because it’s like a ticking time bomb in a person’s head. That person may not receive any warning before the bomb explodes. And, if the person survives the blast, they still may have to face what amounts to a death sentence. For more info on the foundation and the Golf Classic, please click on:

Bob Weir
Bob Weir
Bob Weir is a former NYPD officer, long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.

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