Caregiver and Survivor Takes Advocacy to the National Level

Caregiver and Survivor Takes Advocacy to the National Level

The cliché is; “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” and activist Femma Norton brings this saying to life by taking the many lemons she has been given and squeezing the most out of them. Her sheer optimism and determination have led to important efforts for the brain tumour community in Canada.

Being a nurturer at heart, when family members are diagnosed with illnesses, she instinctively takes on the Caregiver role. This has included supporting several people affected by brain tumours including her father, sister, and brother, each of whom passed away from glioblastoma multiforme brain tumours.

Femma also lost her mother to breast cancer and her husband to kidney failure. For each family member, Femma has offered compassion.

In addition to supporting others, Femma has also battled her own diagnosis of a low grade glioma and has regular MRIs to monitor her condition. Each of these obstacles has motivated her to stand up and advocate in the hopes of making a difference.

Brain tumours first impacted her family more than 40 years ago. It was then that Femma took on her initial activist role. Femma points out, “I was only 22 years old at the time. Back then, it was a diagnosis from out-of-space.” Since little was known at that time, she began to advocate and research potential treatments available. After hearing about a potential new drug available overseas, she phoned Canadian government officials to request the treatment be imported for her father.“No was simply not an option,” she remembers. Unfortunately it did not arrive in time for her father.

Since then, Femma has continued to play an active role in the brain tumour community. One issue close to her heart is that of much-needed improved data collection of all brain tumours (both non-malignant and malignant) in a national registry. She has met with Members of Parliament to make them aware of the need, which helped lead the passing of Private Member’s Motion, M-235. This motion directs the development of a nation-wide effort to collect data about all brain tumours. Today she is working to see this direction implemented.

Femma also represents Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada at the Canadian Alliance of Brain Tumour Organizations (CABTO) a union of brain tumour organizations to exchange information and expertise via monthly conference calls and at annual meetings. She values CABTO’s collaborative structure and is proud to be a part of a group that works effectively together. She comments that, “Whenever I go to their meetings or participate in their conference calls, I feel like I’m helping and giving my time to the cause.”

Femma also supports the brain tumour community by serving as a past member of the North American Brain Tumour Coalition (NABTC) and representing Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada at forums organized by the Canadian Cancer Action Network.
One of Femma’s favorite pastimes is her volunteer work. She adds, “Especially if you’ve been touched by the disease, it gives you a sense of empowerment and hopefulness if you’re doing something to help.” Femma’s nurturing nature is not only reserved for people; it extends to plants, trees and animals. As a passionate and avid gardener, Femma can most often be found working in her Lakeport garden, to which she gives full credit as “my lifesaver.” Additionally, she attributes her survival to her children, family, friends and golden retriever, Millie.

Despite the tragic impact of brain tumours on her and her family, Femma continues to maintain a holistic approach on life as she firmly believes that the body and mind have a powerful connection to one another. She is also continuously striving to find explanations and answers. Referring to herself as, “an eternal optimist,” she is determined to help spur more research into what causes brain tumours and finding ways to prevent the disease.

Femma expresses her gratitude as a volunteer with Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada remarking that, “it’s through the information available that shows they are well-informed and an incredibly worthwhile organization to get involved with.”  Regardless of all the hardships along the way, Femma’s determination and dedication continues to be an inspiration.

Thank you, Femma, for all of your contributions to the advocacy efforts of the brain tumour community in Canada.

<Femma Norton, one of Three Extraordinary Women - Read more 

Story posted: July 2011

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