Nominated by several people. His sister-in-law, Meg Cantwell, shares her nomination….
Since his diagnosis of Stage IV Glioblastoma in 2004, my brother-in-law, Greg Cantwell, has served as a daily source of inspiration for our family, for the cancer researchers he works with, and for the hundreds of people he’s devoted his life to supporting.
Greg has been a singular sort of individual as long as I’ve known him. He’s the type of person who applies for a mid-level job in an industry he’s never worked in, and then is brought in as part of the management team. He’s the type of person who corrals his family members – who are scattered throughout the world – to gather for an impromptu reunion just for the fun of it. He’s the type of person who gets upgraded to first class on a coach fare. And, most memorably, he’s the type of person who insists on going to Fuddrucker’s (straight from the hospital) the day following resection of his glioblastoma and insertion of the Gliadel wafers that helped save his life – because he knew that his family’s mournful deference had to be reversed early in his battle, before it had any chance to bring him down too.
When Greg was given what amounted to a death sentence in 2004, he chose to take it as a suggestion, and declined. His surgeon, forthright to the point of terrifying the rest of us, was a perfect foil for Greg’s tumor, and his humor. Dr. Michael McCue told us about the horrifyingly low long-term survivor rate among individuals with Stage IV glioblastoma, but also gave Greg the treatment and advice that would go on to save his life. “How old is your son?” he asked. Greg told him that Joseph was about to turn two. “It won’t be easy,” said Dr. McCue, “but if we can get you to Joseph’s fifth birthday, you will be with him always. That’s the age when his memories will start becoming permanent. Are you with me?”
Greg was then, and is now; we were together to celebrate Joseph’s fourteenth birthday on a visit earlier this month. But our visiting time was limited. During the week we spent with him, Greg spent much of each day talking to people who had just begun, or were in the midst of, what he acknowledged to them was “the fight of your life.” That’s the tagline of Greg’s Mission, the foundation that Greg went on to found. As he did for himself, Greg urges the cancer patients and caregivers he connects with to ask questions, explore options, and advocate for the best possible care at each phase of their treatment. All those years ago, we watched Greg put the concept of manifest destiny into action – with a gifted team of providers behind him, he truly willed himself to survive. Every day since, he has donated his time to helping others do the same, and under his personal leadership, Greg’s Mission has created an international network of brain cancer fighters. Even those who have lost their own battles have benefited, by having their stories told through Greg’s Mission, by receiving one-on-one counseling from Greg during the most fearful and challenging times of their lives, and by having him as a tireless resource to ensure that they took advantage of the healthcare system and their own support systems as well as they possibly could.
The current patients and the surviving families thank Greg for his support. And we, as the family that expected to be his survivors, thank God that he is with us today.