Barb's Story: "We can all make a difference"

Barb's Story: "We can all make a difference"

 “We can all make a difference in the lives of people affected”

Twenty years ago, in 1995, Barb Clark was keeping busy with two growing children, a loving husband and the day-to-day responsibilities of a job and home. That’s when a major seizure stopped everything in its tracks. 
At only 37 years of age, Barb was diagnosed with a brain tumour in her left temporal lobe. The seizure was the first sign of the cellular tumour. “It was absolutely shocking. My family watched me have the seizure, and then to hear there was nothing that could be done…” Barb explains. A neurosurgeon told Barb and her husband that her tumour was inoperable and that she had only two years to live. 
Being the determined person she is, Barb chose to take her health care team’s news in stride and focused on finding ways to cope with the new reality she and her loved ones faced. Through local brain tumour support groups, Barb and her husband Jim heard about Dr. Rolando Del Maestro and eventually had the chance to meet Steve Northey, Pam Del Maestro and Dr. Del Maestro, the three co-founders of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. From Steve, Barb and Jim would learn about his connection to the cause – Steve’s young daughter, Kelly, had sadly passed away due to a brain tumour – and about the incredible care the Northeys received throughout Kelly’s journey. “We weren’t leaving the support group meeting in Kitchener until we had the information needed to be referred to Dr. Del Maestro, the surgeon who treated Kelly,” Barb recalls. In one week, Barb and Jim were travelling from their home in Orangeville to London for an appointment with Dr. Del Maestro. 
Annual MRIs tracked any growth of the tumour in Barb’s brain, and eventually in 2003, surgery became necessary despite the complicated nature of the eight-hour operation. Far beyond the original two-year prognosis she was given, Barb underwent surgery, while conscious, to remove what was possible of the tumour, without introducing any devastating complications from the surgery. Following this surgery, the frequency of Barb’s MRIs was increased to every six months. The MRIs detected that a second operation would be required in 2011. This was followed by one year of oral chemotherapy. Through it all, Barb says her husband Jim was her “ROCK” and that her support network of family and friends made a tremendous difference in getting through the tough times. “The best medicine was their love,” she adds.
During the years since her initial diagnosis, Barb got involved with the annual Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk) fundraisers for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. From joining the London walk, to organizing two of her own events in Orangeville and then to participating in the Guelph walk, Barb has forged a deep commitment to helping others who navigate the brain tumour journey, explaining that, “Through care and support, we can all make a difference in the lives of people affected.”
Today, two decades later, Barb is alive, thriving and takes each day by the horns. She’s seen her son and daughter graduate from Grade 8, high school, university and college, both marry and build their own families – and Barb and Jim’s first grandchild is expected this September. “It’s magical,” she says, reflecting on how different (but just as special) life is now. “I’ve learned how important the power of the mind is in the healing process. Not just the power of the mind, but also the power of giggles, happiness and to not sweat the small stuff!”

Barb is happy to say, “I live every day believing I have a future. Isn’t life grand!”

Thank you Barb for sharing your story and supporting Spring Sprint,
the movement to end brain tumours is stronger thanks to you!

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Story posted: April 2015

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