Why We Walk Ahead

The University of Cincinnati Brain Tumor Center, a regional destination, provides innovative and compassionate care for patients with brain tumors while striving to find cures and to discover why these tumors occur.  The funds from our events help us achieve new benchmarks as we move forward with innovative research.  For example, we started our first-ever Phase I clinical trial by testing a promising drug compound in patients. 

To learn more about the UC Brain Tumor Center visit http://uchealth.com/brain-tumor   

Did you know…

  • There are over 125 types of brain tumors

  • 210,000 Americans are diagnosed with a brain tumors each year

  • Currently UC has 16 active Brain Tumor Clinical Trials

Team Stories

Billi’s Story / Billi’s BElievers

My phone rang only once on Sunday, August 11, 2014, and it was the call that changed my life. The doctor told me, “I don’t know any other way to say this, but you have a brain tumor. You have a mass growing somewhere in your brain, and it’s pressing on your optic nerve, and that’s why your vision has been blurry. I don’t know how fast it’s growing, or how long it has been growing, but if it keeps going, it will damage your optic nerve and you will become blind in that eye. I am going to refer you to the best surgeon I know, Dr. Mario Zuccarello, at the University of Cincinnati Brain Tumor Center.” Dr. Zuccarello promised he could get it out. But if it kept growing and snapped the optic nerve, he said, “I can’t cure blindness.” Dr. Zuccarello was expecting to perform a 6-hour surgery, but it took 13 hours. Apparently my face had grown extra bone; it was as if my body was trying to protect me from the tumor, almost push it away, not let it get to any area of brain where it could harm me. Dr. Zuccarello had to remove the bone first, then the tumor, then reconstruct the area with titanium mesh. What can I say about the UC Medical Center? I have never loved a place more.  From the laundry worker to the sanitation worker to the person who brought me my meals … every nurse, every doctor, every medical resident, everyone who crossed my path was the kindest, sweetest, most compassionate person I’d ever met in my life. It was very strange. Here I was in such a traumatic time in life, and I felt comfortable, I felt safe, I felt loved.

Kathy’s Story / For Pete’s Sake

My husband, Pete Nadherny, was 60 years old and flourishing when he started having trouble remembering names. He thought the forgetfulness felt odd, that it didn’t feel like normal aging. And he was right. A full body scan found the tumor. The UC Brain Tumor Center gave us the grim news: a grade IV glioblastoma multiforme, the worst kind of brain tumor. Medical science gave Pete a fighting chance, and he grabbed onto it, taking part in a national phase III study that involved removing the tumor and then bathing the tumor cavity with a recombinant protein that targets specific cells. We had 25 wonderful months after his diagnosis. Our journey was full of laughter, sadness, and lots of adventure as Pete and I worked his bucket list. I have recorded that journey by writing a book in Pete's memory called So Far So Good, the expression he used when people asked him how he was doing. I continue his fight by serving on the Brain Tumor Center’s Community Advisory Council and organizing Pete's team in the Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure. For Pete's Sake Fundraising Page

Holly's Story / Holly’s Heroes

My wife, Holly, and I were leading a beautiful fun-filled and wonderful life together. Holly had a “light-up-the-room smile” and a contagious laugh. She was full of life and enjoyed people and entertaining. Her passion was interior design, decorating, and sewing. On Sunday, February 17, 2008, we were looking forward to our next trip to Hawaii that following Saturday. But that afternoon everything changed. Her handwriting began to deteriorate rapidly, and she could not connect thoughts to words. We immediately took her to our doctor, who without delay paved the way to the emergency room of Bethesda North. They quickly ran tests and informed us that Holly had a large mass on the left side of her brain. She was now in the fight of her life, which she waged with a lot of optimism. Surgery was scheduled, and the first one went fairly well. We were advised it was a GBM, and she was recovering quite well. Then an infection took over, requiring another surgery with removal of part of her skull. Subsequent MRI’s determined another mass had formed, necessitating a third surgery. After a month of seizures and tremors, she began to lose her fight and passed away on January 23, 2009. She was in the prime of her beautiful life at age 54. Holly fought hard and never complained. She was a real fighter. This is why HOLLY’S HEROES walks ahead, to bring hope to others in finding a cure for brain tumors. 

Jennifer's Story

Everything happened at once. One night in February 2013, in the middle of night, I had a seizure. I was groaning and making noises, which woke up my husband. At the hospital they did an MRI, CT scan and bloodwork. They found a tumor the size of a golf ball behind my right eye.The next day Dr. Mario Zuccarello of the UC Brain Tumor Center came in and met with me, told me what could happen, and listed some of the risks, including possible nerve damage. He then performed my surgery at the UC Medical Center and removed a meningioma. Although the meningioma was benign – it would not metastasize – it was not harmless. It was wrapped around the nerves that enabled me to open and close my eye, to use the right side of my face, and to use my jaw to chew. After spending a few days in the hospital, I came back home to recover. I’m a fitness instructor, and within two months I was back working full-time. About nine to ten months after surgery, my goal of opening my jaw enough to once again eat sushi and hamburgers was met, and I have almost gained full use of the right side of my face. In addition, my eye movement is slowly coming back. Walk Ahead is a beautiful walk, with wonderful people. Seeing everyone down at Sawyer Point is a great experience, all to celebrate LIFE.

Wally's Story

My prognosis was dim. A phone call from my primary care doctor revealed that I would die in the spring of 2000. In 1997, a small mole on my back was diagnosed as melanoma. It was removed with a wide incision and the surgeon proclaimed that the margins were clear. Just three years later, after no scans or x-rays, the melanoma spread to my lungs. That is when I found a great oncologist,  however, the melanoma battle wasn’t over. During a routine MRI, a new melanoma was found in my brain. Fortunately, I was directed to the UC Brain Tumor Center. During the past seven years, they have guided my healthcare and have kept me alive when many had given up hope. Over the past seven years, I have had four brain surgeries, three for malignant melanoma and one for a cyst. I am elated the UC Brain Tumore Center gave me a new life. That is why I am dedicated to making our “walk for a cure” a huge success.

Donna’s Story / Donna’s Thrivers


Donna’s Story – An Update - Still Thriving – Five Years Later

On April 1 last year, we highlighted a Cincinnati couple, Larry and Donna Blundred. At that point, Donna was approaching a four-year mark of what Larry calls “thriving” – not just surviving-- a Grade IV glioblastoma multiforme. This past June 24 marked a five-year anniversary following the removal of a baseball-sized tumor, and the subsequent diagnosis. “It did not look good then,” Larry recounts. “We were told it always comes back, and if it does, it’s not a not a good thing.” Two small sized tumors did return --in January 2018. But at this writing, Donna has received three consecutive “clear” reports following MRI’s. The couple is encouraged, and Donna is accelerating her walking and yoga regimen in preparation for what will be their fifth consecutive Walk Ahead For The Cure fund raiser October 22.

“I walk at least one mile per day, rain or shine, and my fit bit just goes along, buzzing more than ever as I hit new goals,” Donna says, smiling broadly. On her first walk in 2012 – four months following the surgery and chemotherapy and radiation treatments -- she was helped by a friend.  She could go half way. “If it weren’t so cold and windy, I would have pressed on. Oh well. That is history!” she recounts.A lot has happened since April of 2017.  “We are writing a new chapter each month, each year,” Larry says. In the past year alone, two of their boys announced engagements, with their eldest, Phil, getting married over Memorial Day weekend. Their youngest son, Rob, will marry November 4. Larry also volunteered on the committee that plans the annual UC Brain Tumor Wine Tasting Event, and recruited many new corporate sponsors. On the flip side, Larry’s 91-year-old mother transitioned to assisted living and the subsequent move from her prior residence, a long-distance challenge as she currently resides in suburban Chicago, IL. In addition to performing his duties as a financial advisor, Larry started writing a new chapter in their lives, literally. He began writing a book to celebrate their journey, and to encourage others to remember that “it’s not over yet.” He has formed a limited liability company (LLC) called Thriver Ministries (http://thriverministries.com/)

The book, titled “Staying Resilient When Life Throws You More Than a Curveball” was published in early August, and will be available for sale at the Walk Ahead Event.  “I could not have written this book without Donna, or her story. We worked as a team, and we will carry it forward as a team. Our aim is to encourage others to thrive in the face of a daunting diagnosis, not just survive.”So, Larry and Donna will again assemble the team called “Donna’s Thrivers” for this year’s Walk Ahead.  “We exceeded our financial goal in 2016. Why should we stop now?” Donna asks.

Contact Larry and Donna at thriverministriesOH@gmail.com if you have questions or for more information

Chris's Story

Shortly after returning from a wonderful beach vacation with my family I became very ill with a constant severe headache and nausea. Five days later, my headache was still so intense I was unable to leave my bed and my doctor directed me to go to the hospital for tests. The CT scan and MRI showed a mass, and I was diagnosed with a tumor on my brainstem. I knew that I wanted to be treated by Dr. John Tew at the UC Brain Tumor Center because of the successful work he had done for a friend of mine. Dr. Tew recommended that we watch the tumor to see if it was growing since the removal of a tumor on the brain stem was a challenging procedure. This surgery has risks for side effects like hearing loss, vision loss or loss of balance. Six months later an MRI indicated that the mass appeared to be growing, and Dr. Tew recommended surgery. I decided to get a second opinion from a large national research hospital and was told by one of their specialists that I should have the surgery. The doctor added that if he himself had a similar tumor, he would have Dr. Tew perform the surgery. Needless to say, I was impressed with the excellent national reputation of the UC Brain Tumor Center! Just before the surgery, my teenage daughter asked if Dr. Tew would be able to turn off the “geek switch” in her engineer father’s head during the surgery. Fortunately, Dr. Tew successfully removed a benign choroid plexus papilloma from my brain stem, leaving absolutely no side effects. Unfortunately for my daughter, there was no “geek switch” to silence … or at least that was what Dr. Tew said.

 Debbie's Story / Deb’s Brainiacs

After having a few migraine headaches, Debbie spoke with her doctor, who immediately sent her for an MRI. The news was an inoperable glioma, and aggressive treatment was prescribed. Debbie took the news with bravery and grace. Her first priority was making sure her family and friends were okay. With the support of her husband, Pat; her children, Nicole and Patrick; son-in-law, Clay; two granddaughters, Hope and McKenzie; and a large group of family and friends, Debbie will soon complete her radiation and chemotherapy treatment program. While researching to find out more about Debbie’s tumor, a co-worker received an email about the Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure. With only a month to go before the walk, we decided to put together a team to support our dear friend by helping to raise money for research. We are excited and overwhelmed by the response our team has received. When you meet Debbie, her smile will tell you she is one of the most beautiful people you will ever meet, inside and out. To know Debbie is to love her! -- With love from her friends, "Deb's Brainiacs"

Mary Jane's Story

After working out one day, I noticed some numbness on the right side of my face. The following day it worsened and my concern sent me to my family doctor. An MRI was immediately ordered and a tumor was discovered.   That was September 9, 2008. My case was referred to Dr. John Tew. I was diagnosed with a benign meningioma, but it became a more difficult tumor than usual because of its size, location and odd shape. After four surgeries over the next year and radiation treatments in between, I am left with only numbness on the right side of my face. This is nothing compared to what some people have to live with, tumor or no tumor. I cried that September day, but haven't cried since. Humor and the support of my family and friends have helped me through all of this, and I count my blessings every day. The tumor cannot be completely removed because of its location, so my story continues later this year with a followup MRI. I have a great medical team! I trust them and know they are looking out for my best interests. I can't say enough about the care I have received from the doctors and nurses at the UC Brain Tumor Center. 

Tracy's Story / Gladys’ Gladiators

I was 38 when I joined a gym in October 2011. I was hoping to get back in shape after having a discectomy in April. But after workouts and exercise, my right ear would feel as if it was plugged or full, which in turn caused me to feel lightheaded and dizzy. In 2012 an ENT physician detected a benign tumor on my ear drum and referred me to the UC Brain Tumor Center. An MRI confirmed the suspected tumor on my eardrum and around the cranial nerves that controlled speech, swallowing and facial muscle control. I named the tumor Gladys, as in, “I’m Glad-it’s benign.” My case was presented to the Tumor Board for additional expert opinion. After the Tumor Board discussion, doctors recommended that we move forward with surgery to safely remove as much of the tumor possible without any damage to the cranial nerves. On June 15, 2012, I had a partial tumor resection, and the pathology department determined that the tumor was a meningioma. From there, I made a full recovery, but an MRI in April 2013 showed a 1-millimeter growth in the tumor. I began a 28-day radiation treatment plan in September. Although my tumor was not life-threatening, that is not the case for many other patients who seek treatment. The work being done at the Brain Tumor Center is saving lives and giving hope to those who may have been feeling hopeless. I want to give back to the tumor research cause so the experts can continue to find ways to destroy tumors and preserve as much of a patient’s life as possible – like they did for me. 

Tim Pangallo’s Story / Tim’s Team

In August 2010 Tim and I were heading to Louisville, where one of our children was a student. In the 1½ hours it took us to drive there, Tim went from having a headache to confusion and then having a seizure when we got to the emergency room. The diagnosis, a grade 4 glioblastoma, meant surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Tim was dedicated to his job at Great American Insurance, and his co-workers there were so wonderful to him. Friends and family kept us going and helped us stay strong for the battle we were fighting. Tim was a quiet guy and a bit proud to be nerdy and raise his children, who would follow in his nerdy steps. As a quiet man he never wanted to be the center of attention, but he had to deal with all the love and attention he got, and how wonderful it is that people stepped up for him and us. Our family will remain forever grateful to the wonderful people who cared for us, prayed for us, made us meals and so much more. Sadly, in April 2012, at the age of 51, Tim passed away. We miss him dearly but know that his suffering has past. Now we hope to spare other families this kind of loss. Our family is happy to be a part of this important fundraising effort. We were at the first walk in 2010 and plan to be at every walk, walking and praying for cures for the rising number of people who are being diagnosed with brain tumors. -- Jeanne Pangallo     

Collin's Story / Collin's Crew 


When I was 8 years old and on a family vacation, I woke up with a terrible headache and nausea. On our way to a “Whale Watch” that morning (one of my favorite activities) we had to stop the car and instead drove to the doctor’s office to find out what was going on. He suggested we return home from vacation, where I immediately received a CT scan. The CT found a 7 cm malignant meningioma that had nearly doubled the size of my left ventricle, reducing the flow of fluid to my brain and spine. I had surgery to remove the tumor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and an aggressive dose of radiation at UC Health over the next month. Remarkably, I was back playing soccer, going to hockey camp and starting school on time just two weeks later! Thanks to the wonderful medical care I received and continue to get at UC Health and Cincinnati Children’s, I am now celebrating 21 cancer-free years. I received my college degree from the University of Dayton and now work as a Patient Relations Supervisor at UC Medical Center. This fall my “Walk Ahead” team “Collin’s Crew” will be participating for the 7th straight year, and I will be returning from my honeymoon the night before the event! I hope to see you all there to celebrate everyone who has fought and who continues to fight this terrible disease!           

 Brian's Story 

My life was carefree. Thirty-nine years old. Happily married with three kids under the age of 5. Life was busy, but that felt normal. The only lingering health issue was consistent headaches over the past 2+ years. One simple statement changed our life forever: "Let's get an MRI on your brain to rule out anything serious." That MRI, which was supposed to be reassuring, revealed a small mass, a meningioma located above my left ear. I was referred to Dr. John Tew and his staff on October 28, 2009. And on December 1, I made the transformation from brain tumor patient to survivor. The tumor was removed and ended up being benign. The only side effect has been permanent hearing loss in my left ear. In the grand scheme of life, however, that is a non-issue. The chance to watch my wife and kids grow old is priceless. I could not have gotten through this ordeal without the support of family, friends, co-workers and Dr. Tew and his staff. That is why I will walk, talk, promote and live for the Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure.

Jim's Story 

Jim touched so many lives, always with a smile, a story, a drink, a laugh, often all of those at the same time. Most of all, he was fun, and he loved for everyone around him to be having fun with him. That’s why his family and friends are choosing to celebrate his life every day.  Jim was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive form of brain tumor, in January of 2011. Through his illness, there was never one time that he felt sorry for himself or said, “Why me?”  Instead he was determined to live a full and happy life for every minute he had left. When the decision was made to end treatment, he turned to me and said, “I’m sorry honey.” That’s just how he was … always thinking of everyone else but himself. We have enjoyed everyone telling each other Jim stories, and we hope this has taught all he touched to live each day to the fullest. Remember that “forever” can be short, so be determined to be the best friend, parent, partner you can be. Jim passed from this life in March of 2013, a full year longer than he was initially told. After the 15-month mark he kept saying, “I knew they were wrong!” His friends asked if we could get a team to participate in “Walk Ahead,” and the response has been outstanding. We are determined to raise as much as we can so that someday this disease can be treatable 100 percent of the time.

Tonya's Story 

I was having speech seizures and never realized it. I would be talking with someone and then pause for no real reason. Then I’d pick up again. I knew something was happening, but it seemed minor. I wasn’t concerned enough to have it checked out, until the seizures became frequent. I had 8-month-old and 5-year-old daughters when I was told on May 3, 2013 that I had a brain tumor. My world came to a stop; I thought the worst and immediately felt panic. I had a left frontal glioma that was causing the speech seizures. By this time I would feel them coming on like a wave, and if I tried to talk through it, jumbled words would come out. It was almost like someone had unplugged my brain from my mouth. I was thinking perfectly fine, but I couldn’t get the words out. After meeting with my doctors at the UC Brain Tumor Center I felt better in terms of knowing this doesn’t mean it’s the end, which I absolutely needed to hear. I was scanned and tested over a period of two months and then had surgery on July 23, 2013.They removed the entire tumor, which was benign, and my scans were good, which meant I did not have to go through chemotherapy or radiation. I could not believe it! Since then I have had three or four scans, and they have been clear, so I am on yearly scans now. My piece of advice is this: if you have persistent symptoms, no matter how small they may seem, get them checked out. You just never know, and catching anything early is better than too late.

Tom's Story / Tip - A - Canoe & Tom Too 

It all began in the Quetico Provential Park in Ontario, Canada, when five close friends and I were on our "mostly annual" canoe, camp and fishing trip. I was in the back of a canoe, with my friend Dave in the front. We were fishing on a windy Monday afternoon when I had a seizure (my first ever), passed out, and rolled out of the canoe into the water. The life vest kept me afloat. Dave was able to rescue me by swimming and pulling me to shore, and he used an emergency whistle that was attached to my life vest to summon the other canoes for help. The gang sprang into action and got me back to camp to dry out and get warm. Using the satellite phone, they arranged an emergency pickup with our outfitter. The crew had to paddle me about 5 miles to meet the boat. I was somewhat conscious during all of this, but I remember nothing!  At a hospital in Duluth, brain scans showed a mass that was most likely a tumor. We headed home to the UC Brain Tumor Center, where I had surgery and learned that I had a grade 3, malignant tumor. The biopsy confirmed it as an anaplastic oligodendroglioma. As fate would have it, my diagnosis preceded by one day the annual Midwest Regional Brain Tumor Conference in Cincinnati. I took advantage of the free conference and learned everything I needed to know about my type of tumor and brain tumors in general. Following treatment, I am back doing the things I am passionate about -- spending time with my family and volunteering. I Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure not only for myself but also for others who one day find themselves, as I did, in very cold water.

Adam's Story 

I'm almost five years out from treatment for an atypical meningioma in my right frontal lobe, and my recent scan is looking good, so I'm ready to run! This was my second brain tumor, the only one I remember, but the second nightmare my parents have had to endure. At 21 months of age, my expert walking skills declined, and I developed weight loss, listlessness, vomiting and a burning desire to sleep on pillows. My CT scan revealed a medulloblastoma, for which I underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I did amazingly well, attending school through college and swimming competitively without a hitch. Then, in the summer of 2009, while working on my master's degree in accounting, I started having right-sided headaches that I thought were migraines. On Labor Day weekend, I had a terrible headache, became lethargic and vomited continually. A skilled and kind ER doctor, after looking at my CT, broke the news to my mom that I had a new tumor, and had me transported to the UC Medical Center, where their team remove my meningioma. I able to return to class several weeks after surgery and to get my accounting diploma that winter. After careful review, my doctors decided it was safe and prudent for me to once again undergo radiation therapy, under the direction of Dr. John Breneman. I've been feeling great, I exercise regularly, and I have even managed to pass my CPA exams. I can't thank the doctors enough for their expertise and compassion in making it possible for me to be a second-time survivor.

 Rosemary's Story 

On a hot day in late July, time stood still as we heard the doctor tell us that mom had an inoperable, very aggressive, malignant brain tumor (a glioblastoma multiforme) and that without treatment, she would die within weeks. Nothing can prepare you for news like that. Mom was a sweet, beautiful woman who showed incredible courage, grace, and dignity battling her illness. She never complained or asked why. She faced each day with love in her heart and always with a smile. Her love and generosity in her lifetime were inspiring. She was the first to volunteer for a project, crochet an afghan, knit baby hats for preemies, bake Italian cookies, or make beautiful jewelry always for others. She loved her crafts, her puzzles, her games, her flowers and decorations, but most of all, she loved her family and friends. Mom’s treatment included chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation at UC Barrett Cancer Center. The 194 days from diagnosis to death left a hole in our hearts that will never be filled, but those hours and days were also filled with wonderful memories of love and devotion. Thankfully, Mom was able to stay in her home during her entire illness; she was cared for by her loving husband, children and family. Surrounded by the love of her family, mom peacefully passed away on an unseasonably warm, sunny day in February as the birds chirped, the curtains blew, and Josh Groban sang, “To Where You Are.” We know where mom is … she is in the loving hands of the Lord and forever in our hearts.

Carol's Story 

Having a tumor so close to my brain was the LAST thing I would have dreamed I had! I was a healthy, very active 47-year-old working mother and had never experienced any type of major medical problem—ever. But one day in July I felt a sharp pain in my neck and right shoulder. Thinking I must have jarred my neck doing something, I took it easy for a few weeks. But the pain grew worse, and no means of massage or chiropractic treatments helped. By December the pain was so severe I could hardly walk and had lost most of the feeling in my arms. An MRI revealed a 2-centimeter tumor between my C1 and C2 vertebrae—basically at the bottom of my brain stem. I was shocked by the news and immediately presumed the worse. I couldn’t believe at 47 this was it! However, my doctor performed a 6-hour surgery to remove the tumor, and pathology results showed the tumor wasn’t cancerous. I felt like I got a second lease on life! Just three months after surgery I was back to running 5ks and as active as ever. I have MRIs annually, but so far no tumor recurrence. Having a tumor anywhere in the neuro area can be so debilitating and really puts life into perspective. I’m so lucky to be walking, much less back to running again! I am so grateful that the healing hands of Dr. Kuntz were able to touch me before he left us. I owe my life to him and he will truly be missed!

Get The Word Out