One Survivor Drives Awareness Home

One Survivor Drives Awareness Home

Everyone has their own way to give back to their community and help others. For David Kelly of Fredericton, New Brunswick, it is finding any way possible to spread the word about brain tumour awareness. A city councillor and dedicated community volunteer, David recently found a unique way to connect others to brain tumour support, information, education and research anywhere he goes.

David’s connection to Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada began in 2007 when he found himself in the hospital because of concern about dizziness and altered speech. An MRI was ordered and before long the results of the test – a golf-ball sized brain tumour – were revealed to David and his wife Kim. Within days David was whisked into surgery. The surgeon removed as much of the tumour as possible while David lay awake talking to the anaesthesiologist about sports, politics, family, friends and local restaurants.

“Periodically they would ask me to do something, like say a word, lift my or leg and make a fist. It was very surreal,” David explains as he never had surgery before.

A few days following the surgery, the news David and his family were hoping for came through: the tumour was not malignant. While this was good news, David has some long-term effects of the tumour.

“My short-term memory is an issue,” he explains. "People's names especially, that is one of the biggest problems I have," he says. For a city councillor who is heavily involved in the community, this can be frustrating, but this is a common issue for post brain surgery patients.

He takes take anti-seizure medication twice daily and has regular checkups with his surgeon at the Saint John, New Brunswick brain tumour unit to monitor what remains of the tumour – it could not be removed entirely because it was located in the area of the brain that affects speech and mobility. He has also become a passionate advocate about brain tumours with activities like hosting awareness displays and promoting education and support opportunities throughout the year since.

In the summer of 2010, David had the idea to take his commitment to the organization a step further by applying large decals of the phone number, website and logo of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada on his van. He gathered sponsorship from local businesses to cover the costs of the creation and application of the decals.

David is hoping that those who have been touched by a brain tumour will be positively affected by seeing his van. “It is about getting out the message that you are not alone. There are others, not just in Fredericton but all across Canada dealing with this disease,” he says.

David is a member of the Fredericton Brain Tumour Support Group, which he explains is really helpful. "The group gets together and we have a good chat. It's an interesting thing, the stories I've talked about with others at our meetings. It's helping amazingly."

He is grateful not only to have this group, but for everyone who supported him during this experience, including his doctors, the staff of the Stan Cassidy Rehabilitation Centre, his family and friends, and the community as a whole. His family including wife Kim and seven-year old daughter Mallory have been a huge support since the operation. The close knit family including Mom, Barbara, his sister Heather and brothers Ron, Steve & Tim have been by his side consistently. David also credits his in-laws for their wonderful support.

David also has a close knit group of personal friends. Each year during the long weekend in May they go to a cottage in Miramichi, New Brunswick for a fishing and fun weekend at his friend Shawn’s cottage. David explains, “there are 12 friends that go and they have all played a role in helping me through the process of brain tumour diagnosis to surgery and recovery support now. In addition to his personal friends, David also thanks the Mayor and Fredericton city council as well as the citizens of the city.

David drives his van everywhere he goes. He has brought the van to brain tumour events like support groups meetings and Halifax Information Day.

"It hits home for a lot of people,” he says. His hope is to help more people find information and support and to raise awareness about how common brain tumours are.

"I'm fortunate,” he says. “I'm on year number two now and the tumour hasn't changed yet and that's about as good of news as you're going to get." David takes pride in each day of his life, and lives by a quote said to him by his Father in 1975 after he fell off a roof almost killing him. He almost wound up being a quadriplegic but was a paraplegic. The wording to David by his Father was:

“You treat each day as special David because you never know what tomorrow will bring.”

David lives by this each day.

Story posted January 2011. David passed in October 2014. The Chair's Award for Community Service was since renamed to honour David.

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