ABTA

A Tumorator’s Tale

Erica Juliano shares her brain tumor journey.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in NYC with my energetic puppy, George.  I love walking my dog and going to the dog park. In the summers, I go to my beach house in Delaware or travel to see friends.

Please share a bit of information about your loved one’s diagnosis and how your life has changed since.

Two weeks after turning 30, Declan was having a terrible headache for a little over a week. We were pumping him full of water thinking he was dehydrated. We also purchased migraine patches and any migraine relief medication or supplements we could find. He was feeling a little better so I left on a Friday to go see my family as originally planned. On Saturday, he was feeling sick again so he took himself to the ER, which led to an x-ray.

I had been at the beach that morning and came home to have some lunch when we received a phone call from his mom who asked to talk to my mom. I knew something was wrong. The x-ray showed the mass that changed everything. My mom and I jumped in the car and drove from Delaware to Connecticut straight to the hospital to learn that the signs were pointing to glioblastoma (GBM). A few weeks later, he had surgery and the diagnosis was confirmed.

Declan fought the fight for 18 months – chemo, immunotherapy, radiation, two surgeries, multiple trials, etc. He was incredibly strong and his faith never ever faltered. We were lucky enough to have an extensive support system, both in friends and family, as well as our employers and colleagues who allowed us to do what was needed in his best interest.

When Declan was no longer able to work, he found purpose in the American Brain Tumor Association by setting up fundraisers and creating our BT5K team, ‘The Tumorators‘. In just two short years, his efforts raised about $40K for this wonderful organization. He was also matched with an incredible mentor who helped him navigate and try to make sense of his diagnosis.

Declan passed away in February 2018. His funeral was standing room only and full of the people who are better off for knowing him and the celebration that followed at his favorite bar was a true testament to a life well lived. My life and those who knew him will never be the same. He was truly the definition of “larger than life” and a best friend to anyone who crossed his path.

While most days it is still hard to fathom that this experience and the loss of Declan is real, I try and find the light and live each day as he would have. Loving hard. Smiling a lot. Finding humor in all situations. Share my opinions. And (try) not to sweat the small stuff. My entire life has been uprooted, I moved out of Connecticut to NYC, I am 32 and single, but having Declan in my life for just the 5 years I did was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Talk to us about your relationship with the American Brain Tumor Association.

Declan found the American Brain Tumor Association when he was searching for answers after his diagnosis. Since then, the ABTA has been amazing. I’ve attended caregiver summits, joined the BT5K New York committee and continued our team this year in Declan’s memory.

The ABTA provides me with a way to continue to feel connected to the cause and provides a feeling of fulfillment to help push cures and answers forward.

Why do you think it’s important for people to donate to organizations like the American Brain Tumor Association?

At the core the American Brain Tumor Association is providing support and driving the necessary research needed for something that there really is so little known about compared to other diagnoses. While the percentage of people effected by brain tumors every year is less than some other cancers, there is so much that needs to be discovered and studied in order to find cures.

The ABTA is so much more than just a nonprofit for research, it is an organization that provided purpose to Declan when he was no longer able to work and for that I will always be thankful. As a young man, Declan wanted to feel like he was providing and contributing to society and was so passionate about his career and, when that was stripped from him, he really struggled. Finding the ABTA truly brought life back into Declan and they need support in order to offer the same opportunities to more people.


In our 45 years, the most dramatic advances are being made now.
Let’s put our brains together to stop brain tumors once and for all. Your donation makes a difference.

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