Cindy's Story: A 1700-kilometre walk to honour those with brain tumours

Cindy's Story: A 1700-kilometre walk to honour those with brain tumours

When registered massage therapist and fitness instructor Cindy Rivard laces up her runners this summer, it will be for a hike the likes of which she’s never before embarked. Starting in early August 2013, this Orleans, ON resident will walk El Camino de Santiago, or St. James’ Way – a 1700km trek across France and Spain. The pilgrimage is both a personal goal for Cindy and holds a special place in her heart as her effort is in honour of three loved ones who have battled or currently live with brain tumours.

First though, as Cindy explains, you have to go to the beginning of this inspiring story.

Four years ago, Cindy’s mother, Verla, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour. “She was so determined to beat it,” recalls Cindy. “All throughout her surgery and treatment, she never lost hope.” While preparing for Verla’s radiation, Debbie, a dear friend and fellow aquafit instructor, helped support and comfort Cindy, even offering her helpful questions to ask the radiation team. Then, in a startling coincidence, Debbie herself received a frightening diagnosis: she, too, had a GBM. Sadly, both women passed away one after the other. In Cindy’s words, “It was like a double whammy, truly devastating. They died within a day of each other.”

Inspired by what she calls, “their fight,” Cindy felt motivated to do something in tribute to these two special women. This determination and energy was taken even one step further when she learned of another friend’s brain tumour journey. Gord, who takes part in the same running club as Cindy, received a GBM diagnosis in 2011. “He is just amazing,” adds Cindy. “Gord even came to the running clinic after his brain tumour operation. He’s such an inspiration to us all.”

A fitness enthusiast, Cindy has kept up teaching aquafit classes at a local recreation complex. There, her 9am group learned of her idea to do El Camino de Santiago as a fundraiser and wanted to cheer Cindy on in some way. “I was totally humbled by their support,” Cindy says. “One day we were just talking about my plans for the walk, and the next they’d organized an event to help!”

After checking in with the facility’s management, the class’ idea for an aquathon fundraiser was given the green light. On May 3, 2013, dozens of participants came to the rec complex and jumped in the water, all with the aim of raising money in support of Cindy’s overall fundraising goal of $17,000 for brain tumour research. “The $17,000 figure was picked because it’s $10 for every kilometre walked doing the El Camino,” explains Cindy. “It seemed fitting!” So far, the aquathon has counted donations of more than $9,000 towards Cindy’s goal – and more money continues to come in.

With her strong background in fitness to help her with training and just a couple months until she lands in France to kick off her cross-country excursion, Cindy looks to her connection to brain tumours as a reminder of why she’s taking on such a physical and mental feat. “The brain is such an amazing organ and there’s just so much we don’t know about it. I hope that brain tumour research finds a way to help patients combat this terrible disease that can take people so quickly.” 

Cindy is blogging about her El Camino de Santiago fundraising adventure.
You can follow along her trek every step of the way.

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Story posted: June 2013


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