Phyllis’ Story: A Mother’s Motivation to Make Change

Phyllis’ Story: A Mother’s Motivation to Make Change

In the summer of 2007, for Alberta resident Greg Derbyshire and his family, life changed forever. A licensed mechanic, Greg suddenly began to feel unwell at work one day. When he approached a coworker for an aspirin, she immediately recognized that slurred speech and numbness in his left arm could be signs of a heart attack and took him to the emergency room.

The medical team wasted no time in trying to figure out what was happening with Greg. Following an EKG, x-rays, a CT scan and MRI, Greg heard the devastating news that he had a brain tumour.

In early August, Greg had surgery and the tumour, an anaplastic-astrocytoma, was removed. The surgery was followed with aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments through to the end of October.

Greg then began the long process of recovery and his diagnosis started the entire family on their journey with the disease. Together they came to the Information Day conferences and the Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk) fundraisers, “but Greg wanted to attend the support group alone,” Phyllis recalls. Soon Greg was connecting with others facing a brain tumour and began sharing his story by speaking at the Calgary Information Day and joining the Calgary Support Group.

In addition to attending these events, Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada became the charity of choice for the family, and Phyllis says it always will be. “I never knew there was such a thing as brain cancer. You hear of so many other types of cancer, but when it comes to this condition, I just didn’t know.”

This sense of the unknown is what motivates Phyllis and her family. She explains, “The family is more aware now and when friends ask, we tell them all that we know. We encourage them to check out unexplained headaches, dizziness, numbness of limbs, any physical or personality changes, and even depression. And to ask questions of their family physician.”

While Greg’s health has continued to improve, he has not been able to return to work due to numbness in his left arm. Two years after his diagnosis, he was presented with the wonderful opportunity to buy a small farm. Phyllis says, “The outdoors was always his passion.”

brain tumour survivor greg and his fiance carrie

Today, Greg is doing well and enjoying life with his fiancée Carrie, along with their three dogs and many chickens. He still works on vehicles for family, friends and neighbours, but recognizes his limits and knows when to rest. Greg has MRI’s every six months and to date, all tests have shown "no change.” And many years after Greg’s frightening diagnosis, the family continues to be involved with Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

From her ongoing connection to the brain tumour community, Phyllis has learned that Canada does not have a registry to track brain tumours. She asks, “How can that be? We seem to track everything else, from other diseases to the flu! How could we not be tracking something as important as brain tumours?”

Because of this, Phyllis has committed to making monthly gifts to Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada to help support the new Canadian Brain Tumour Registry.

You can learn more about the efforts to launch the Canadian Brain Tumour Registry and how you can help make this exciting project a reality.

Thank you Phyllis and Greg for sharing your story, for your ongoing contributions, and for your commitment to making a difference for all brain tumour patients in Canada.
Story posted: April 2013



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