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Inaugural Brain Tumour Walk to bring awareness to an incurable disease

There are 120 types of brain tumours, making effective treatment complicated, while 27 Canadians are told daily that they have this disease.

MOOSE JAW — Moose Jaw’s inaugural Brain Tumour Walk is set for early June, giving families like the Ingolds a chance to bring awareness to a disease that affects thousands of Canadians.

The walk occurs at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 9, at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Parish at 1064 Third Avenue Northwest. Participants will walk 1.2 kilometres before returning to the hall for refreshments and fellowship.

All funds raised will support the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, which supports research, patients, caregivers, and others. 

“Brain tumours are unpredictable and complex. They can affect anyone at any time,” said Helen Ingold, who is organizing the walk with her husband Richard. 

“(Brain tumours) can affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. Their effects are physical, emotional, financial and can last a lifetime,” she continued. “Roughly one-third of brain tumours are malignant.”

According to the foundation, there are 120 types of brain tumours, making effective treatment complicated, while 27 Canadians are told daily that they have this disease. Furthermore, in the first year after diagnosis, the average patient will make 52 health-care-related visits. 

The most devastating news about brain tumours is there is no cure; surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can reduce them but not eliminate them. 

This type of cancer has had a major effect on the Ingold family, as Richard’s mother died of a brain tumour three weeks after her diagnosis and surgery and Helen’s father died 15 months after his diagnosis. 

Perhaps the most devastating news that Helen and Richard have received was about their daughter, Gena (Ingold) Wattam, who learned she had a malignant brain tumour four years ago. Originally from Moose Jaw, Wattam, 31, now lives in Ottawa with her husband and four-and-a-half-year-old son and has had three surgeries. 

“When she first had her brain tumour four-and-a-half-years ago and had her surgery, she didn’t want anyone to know,” said Ingold. “And we couldn’t even tell the brothers and sisters; she only wanted the parents to know because we had to go help out.”

Wattam began having strange symptoms six years ago and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Her thoughts were unclear, she received strange looks from people because of her actions, and she felt nauseous, but she could speak. She eventually became more alert but usually dealt with headaches.

“Looking back, I was experiencing partial seizures, but I didn’t know it at the time,” she said. “There were no visible spasms, but the part of my brain that understands language was confused.

“Doctors call it temporary aphasia. My speech didn’t make sense and I couldn’t read properly.”

Two years later, when Wattam was 38 weeks pregnant, she learned she had a large brain tumour. Doctors recommended that she have a C-section so they could perform surgery to remove the tumour once she had recovered from the C-section.

Two months after delivering her baby, the woman had her first brain procedure, which saw two surgeons work 12 hours to remove as much of the tumour as they could — all while she was awake.

Wattam was supposed to have radiation and chemotherapy six weeks later, but the pandemic’s arrival shut down all non-essential procedures. She eventually had her second and third surgeries a year ago and had more — but not all — of the tumour removed, while she finished radiation six months ago and will soon finish chemotherapy. 

There were several months when Wattam’s white blood cell count was low, which caused her to wonder how she could raise awareness about this disease. She decided to hold a walk in Ottawa while her parents and in-laws agreed to hold similar events in Saskatchewan.

“There is no cure; it’s lifelong,” added Ingold.

For more information, click here or here

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