Honouring Three Extraordinary Women

Honouring Three Extraordinary Women
In May 2015, three remarkable women, who have worked tirelessly, and given countless volunteer hours in support of the brain tumour community, were honoured by the Pencer Brain Tumor Centre with the Guy Morrison Volunteer of the Year Award.

Pictured left to right is Susan Marshall, Jennifer Gouchie and Femma Norton at one of the CABTO/Toronto Blue Jays Brain Tumour Awareness Days

The Canadian Alliance of Brain Tumour Organizations (CABTO) was founded in 1999 with the mission of providing a Canadian patient voice within the brain tumour community on a national and international level. There were three women who were the driving force behind this organization for much of that time: Jennifer Gouchie, Susan Marshall and Femma Norton.

Over the years, CABTO worked successfully on a number of initiatives. In 2007, CABTO worked closely with MP Bill Casey to see the successful (and uncommon) passage in the House of Commons of Private Members Motion M-235. This Motion called for uniform, national standards and guidelines on the surveillance of both malignant and non-malignant (benign) brain tumours. The final vote for M-235 was an overwhelming 225 in favour with 49 Members voting against. This effort was critical early work that laid the foundation for the development for a Canadian Brain Tumour Registry. The feasibility study that was done from 2013 and 2014 could not have occured without this momentum.

Over time, these women have also represented CABTO and the brain tumour community with various national organizations such as the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and Neurological Health Charities of Canada. They have made presentations before a variety of groups including the Canadian Association of Provincial Cancer Registries, and participated in advocacy activities and summits with the International Brain Tumour Alliance as well as in meetings like the Canadian Neurooncology Meeting and the Society for Neurooncology Meeting.

They are also always willing to speak to the media and the general public about the cause the need for change.

Three Extraordinary Women...

Jennifer Gouchie has also been the driving force behind BrainChild Maritimes for many years. She has organized events, written many stories, and spoken about what it means when a family member has a brain tumour.  She knows that reality all too well because her son Brandon was diagnosed with a brain tumour as a child. He was successfully treated and Brandon grew into a handsome, charming young man. And then his brain tumour came back. He endured more treatments and the whole time he maintained the same positive, brave outlook that he inherited from his mom. Sadly, Brandon passed away in October 2012. Even in the face of such heartbreaking loss, Jennifer continued to work tirelessly with CABTO. She is driven and committed.

Susan Marshall will be familiar to many, as she served for over a decade as the Executive Director of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. In that role she nurtured the growth and development of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada into a multi-faceted, dynamic organization that now offers a great deal of support and information to those patients and families affected by a brain tumour while also funding research. Like Jennifer, Susan knows well, why these things are important. As a young child, her son Brent was also diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was successfully treated and grew into a handsome, engaging young man. And then his brain tumour came back. Brent also endured more treatments, and like his mom, displayed remarkable bravery and strength. Sadly Brent passed away in May 2010, on his 24th birthday. In 2013, Susan left her role at Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, but she continued to volunteer with CABTO and the cause in general, to help to raise awareness about brain tumours. She is dedicated and tireless.

Femma Norton has volunteered hundreds of hours of her time to work with both CABTO on many initiatives, and also with Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Femma is also keenly aware of the challenges faced by those affected by a brain tumour - she lost her father and two siblings to this deadly disease. When it comes to raising awareness, Femma is always ready to roll up her sleeves and do whatever she can to help. She has provided a voice for brain tumour patients on many committees and with many organizations and was the chief organizer in all of the CABTO-Toronto Blue Jays Brain Tumour Awareness Days. She is thoughtful, eloquent and fiercely passionate about the cause.

Going Forward, Together...

Earlier in 2015, after many years of scarce resources, CABTO made the difficult decision to fold the organization. It was not an easy decision.  Not surprisingly, these three amazing women have agreed to continue to volunteer their time to raise awareness about brain tumours as part of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada's Advocacy Committee.

And, in honour of their many years of hard work, these tireless and brave women were honoured with the Pencer Brain Tumor Centre's Guy Morrison Volunteer of the Year Award. This award is presented annually to individuals who fulfil a variety of criteria including: taking action to build awareness and educate the general public about brain tumours while also being positive and offering hope. Jennifer, Susan and Femma truly are volunteers who have exemplified these qualities - and have made great strides in the fight against brain tumours. 

Thank you Jennifer, Susan and Femma for all of your hard work, determination and passion for the cause.


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Story posted: May 2015

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