Dynamic Duo: Paul and Chris
“Do we really need to do this?” Paul asked doctors as they rolled him into the operating room for a craniotomy.Just a few days prior—on Christmas night—Paul woke up in an ambulance after a grand mal seizure. That was 14 years ago. “I’m still alive and doing great,” declares Paul. As a 14-year brain cancer survivor, Paul remains a dedicated mentor for the newly diagnosed. “It’s nothing anybody ever expects. It’s a shock and it’s overwhelming.” “It felt like someone had just blown up our world,” says Chris, Paul’s wife of 30 years. “It was devastating.” “Chris is my superhero. She’s tenacious and resilient. She navigated the chaos when I was first diagnosed and continued to keep her eyes and heart wide open every day.” Paul’s diagnosis of a grade III anaplastic astrocytoma at age 44 changed his career and life. The former marketer for major corporations like Kraft Foods and Trane was eventually laid off from his job and was unable to find full-time work after his diagnosis. “I was an aggressive marketer and I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to quit,” he said. “I struggled with some depression.”
During the last few years, Paul and Chris have made it their mission to help others impacted by this unforgiving disease. Both serve as mentors in the American Brain Tumor Association mentor program, volunteering their time to provide support to newly diagnosed patients and caregivers.
As long-time attendees of the ABTA National Conference, they enjoy connecting with other patients and caregivers from around the country.
“It’s simply amazing. Everyone who goes to the conference is optimistic despite the challenges they face,” Paul says. He recalls a woman he met at the conference last year. “You could tell the brain tumor was taking its toll on her. She must have been in her final three to four months. And yet, she was right there, asking questions of the researchers.”
“That’s the thing about the ABTA brain tumor community…they get it.,” Chris says. “You can have real conversations with someone who is undergoing a similar experience. And ultimately, talking and connecting with one another helps us all.”
Now, Paul is leading classes around social justice reform at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Northwestern University. Sharing his excitement about this role, he abruptly stops and says, “I need to head off now, I’ve got a scheduled call with a newly diagnosed guy in Atlanta at 3 p.m.” There’s Paul, helping someone to navigate the life-changing news of a brain tumor diagnosis.