2007 Humor to Fight the Tumor Event

The 2007 “Humor to Fight the Tumor” was held on September 27 for its 4th annual event. The evening raised more than $141,000, 100% of which will help support the American Brain Tumor Association in the areas of research and patient services. The event drew over 500 people united in its goal of raising awareness about the devastating effects of brain tumors.

We honored four individuals highlighted above. Some of the funds will be kept to service our local Minnesota brain tumor community.

The evening featured WCCO Mike Fairbourne as the Master of Ceremonies. WCCO-Radio Eleanor Mondale and Suzy Becker, author of I Had Brain Surgery, What’s Your Excuse, were the keynote speakers. Both offered insight and humor with a brief overview of their own brain tumor experiences.


Sammi Ericksen (age 15)

When I was four years old my mom told me I had an “owie in my head that didn’t belong there, and we needed to make it go away.” I had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem tumor and was given a 0-15% chance of surviving more than three years. After surgery to remove a cyst attached to the tumor, I went through two years of chemotherapy. Because I was so young, I did not fully understand what was going on in my head. Now, as a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore, I realize how lucky I truly am. It is my wish for others touched by brain tumors to never give up hope, and to celebrate each day for the gift that it is.

Bryan Gray (age 41)

In April 1998 I was diagnosed at age of 32 with an inoperable grade II Oligodendroglioma. At the time our son was just eight months old. I underwent six weeks of radiation. Though my tumor has remained stable these past nine years, I continue to manage multiple side-effects and complications, including a DVT and Type 1 Diabetes. That’s due to the tumor, postradiation effects, and high doses of medication (for seizure and migraine headache management). I worked until five years ago when my wife, Kristin, and I made the decision to focus on my health and improve my long-term quality of life. I now raise our two children Jacob (age 9) and Jordan (age 7) and focus on volunteer activities and with the youth at church. Kristin and I feel very blessed and know that we have a choice each day as to how we want to live our lives. We choose to have a God-centered life and focus on our love for family and friends.

Maddie Paguyo (01/16/1990 - 05/06/2004)

During April 2003 Madeline Paguyo was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma: an inoperable, incurable brainstem tumor with an average survival of 9-12 months. With a grim prognosis and no proven medical course of treatment, Maddie conscientiously and deliberately decided to live each day as she had every other day of her life, with a silent selfassuredness, a determination to do her best always, a loyalty to family and friends. Maddie’s realistic, yet optimistic outlook helped guide her mom, Julie, through both the toughest and brightest moments. While the tumor threatened to limit the quantity of days, Maddie limited the tumor’s impact on the quality of her life. She outlives the tumor today with her ever-present smile left on the hearts of all who knew her.

Julie Schwartz (age 40)

In 1994, about six weeks after my husband Bob and I were married, I had a grand mal seizure. I was 27 years old when my tumor was detected. I was approximately the same age that my father had been diagnosed with a brain tumor over twenty years prior. I couldn’t help but feel how brave he had been, and I have used his strength and courage in my own battle. I had surgery in 1995. My neurosurgeon could not remove the entire tumor because of its location near my motor strip. It is an Oligodendroglioma/ Astrocytoma. For a number of years the only treatment was “wait and watch for growth.” Neither radiation nor chemo was effective for this type of tumor, but now chemo is available. I thank God there are researchers and organizations like the ABTA who have worked on and support the new development in treatments. In May 2007 I found out that my tumor has grown by about 25% and I have started chemo treatments once again. I rely on God to give me the strength I need to get my family and myself through this.