Courtesy of Rachel Emery
Lauren Johnson and Norman Emery are raising awareness about brain cancer and raising funds to help find new treatment and a cure.
Editor’s Note: The day this interview took place was Lauren Thompson Johnson’s birthday. She said she felt there was no better way to honor her mother’s memory than to spend the day with Norman Emery promoting the Brain Tumor Nature Walk.
When Lauren Johnson’s mother passed away in 2015, Johnson sought to funnel her grief to create something positive. The outcome of that grief is the 3rd Annual Brain Tumor Nature Walk that will take place on Saturday, Oct. 6 at Weldon Springs State Park. The day’s activities begin at 10 a.m. and will wrap up about 4 p.m. The date has been changed due to possible inclement weather.
The late Carol Thompson, a well-known park interpreter at Weldon Springs, died of glioblastoma malforma (GBM), the most aggressive and deadliest form of all brain tumors.
Thompson spent her life teaching generations of local children about nature so it only seemed fitting to her daughter that the fund-raiser be geared toward families.
In addition to the quarter-mile walk, there will be a bounce house, vendors, a food truck, live music from Nicotine Poet, a raffle and more.
In the walk’s inaugural year, it raised $23,000 for the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS). Last year, the walk generated $6,000. Johnson hopes the event will grow again every year.
“It’s not just for my mom,” said Johnson. “That’s just how it started. It’s still honoring her, but so many people have been affected.”
Assisting Johnson in this year’s fund-raiser is Norman Emery, a Clinton man who is currently undergoing treatment for GBM.
Unfortunately, Emery will miss this year’s event because he will be recovering at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago from surgery on Sept. 7 to remove a second tumor. He will then begin a clinical trial for immunotherapy that will replace traditional radiation and chemotherapy.
“There is no cure for GBM,” said Emery. “You really can’t be a survivor.”
Instead, the efforts of people like Johnson and Emery are about research for new treatments.
“Treatment is about extending life,” said Emery. “Whether it’s a few months or years. I get so caught up in living my life, I sometimes forget I’m fighting for my life.”
“Last year I started to look at my future as short-term milestones,” he continued.
For Emery, those short-term milestones have included his children’s birthdays and graduations.
“The long-term will be ambitious but the short-term might be enough to help me sustain a few more months if it gets bad.”
Johnson agreed. “My babies don’t have their grandma, and if we can help someone else’s grandma, or someone else’s mom, or someone else’s daddy, how much more beautiful of a thing can you do in your life? That’s why this is a family-centered event. We all want the same result. We want to find the cause and ultimately a cure.”
According to Johnson and Emery, the National Brain Tumor Society uses 83 cents of every dollar raised for research.
“One hundred percent of the funds raised locally are donated to NBTS,” added Emery.
The local chapters of the VFW and AmVets are encouraging all veterans to attend the day’s events and support this walk in memory of the late Sen. John McCain, said Emery, who explained McCain also had GBM and believes his illness and ultimate passing will bring more awareness to the disease.
“(GBM) has affected so many people,” said Johnson, which is why she wants the annual event to be a family affair, continue to grow, and for patients to “just know you’re not alone.”
“I’d like to one day to use the whole park,” said Johnson. “I have so many plans for this event to grow.”
To support this year’s event, simply show up at 10 a.m. on Saturday to register and participate in the walk and activities. Donations will be accepted at the event on online at: https://nbtsevents.braintumor.org/event/2018-3rd-annual-nbts-nature-walk/e185662. More information is also available on the group’s Facebook page or contact Lauren Thompson at (217) 622-8294 or [email protected]