John Brace came into my life a mere three weeks after I had buried my husband, Chris, who died from Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) which was just six weeks after Chris and I had created the Chris Elliott Fund, now known as the End Brain Cancer Initiative.
He was the first person I ever had the honor of helping with his brain cancer diagnosis other than my late husband Chris. John will always have a special place not only in my heart but also in the heart of the End Brain Cancer Initiative. As evident from my first meeting with John, he remained a true inspiration to all those affected by a brain tumor diagnosis. John willingly shared his experience with others and always found a way to give other brain cancer patients HOPE as evidenced here in this 2010 news release and of course in his 2012 EndBrainCancer blog post about being a survivor.
Earlier, in 2005, the Seattle Times did an article about John in reference to his decision to sign a “do not resuscitate” order after experiencing a complication stemming from his already 2-year battle against brain cancer. It was inspirational and especially timely due to the controversial public issue dealing with Terri Schiavo who spent half of her life being kept alive by machines when a Florida judge ordered that her life support be terminated by the end of the month.
Oddly enough, when I first met John Brace, whose friends call him “JB”, I realized that his best friend, Stan, was an acquaintance of my late husband. As a matter of fact Stan was the brother of our best man’s wife….6 degrees of separation at it’s best! It’s crazy how people are connected sometimes. JB’s first question to me was “what do I need to know and what do I need to do to survive this disease?” In that moment, something just clicked for me. JB’s questions were SO important. They were vital questions and because I had walked in the trenches of this disease, I knew I would be able to help countless others who found themselves needing to ask the exact same questions.
I agreed to meet with JB and Stan over my kitchen table while my kids where in school and preschool. The first thing I remember about JB is #1 how tall he is and #2 that I loved this hat. Looking at JB, you would never know that he had just had brain surgery, until he pulled off his hat of course to show off his large scar matched with an even larger smile. I remember feeling really energized and encouraged as he flashed that “I beat the beast” smile.
Our initial meeting lasted for nearly 3 hours.
I remember after that meeting thinking… I really hope that whatever I shared with him relating to “Chris’ Story”, all of the things that we learned along the way, the things we wished we had known or at least been told about; that maybe, just maybe I could help save JB’s life or at the very least, help bring a stronger Quality of Life (QOL) to him as he battled his brain cancer. Well, that was over 14.5 years ago! JB has been such a strong inspiration to not only me but to many people diagnosed with brain cancer over the last 14.5 years! I have called upon JB many times to meet, talk with, or email not only patients diagnosed with brain cancer but also their caregivers, family and friends. I have called upon JB to attend multiple events and to even speak at some of them in order to help share his hope with others so that they could feel and see a hope of their own.
I feel as if a part of me passed away about three weeks ago when I received word that JB had passed away. The last time I saw JB, he had just had another brain tumor surgery but looked healthy, felt great and of course had that winning smile on his face along with a big hug for everyone he knew. Even now, as difficult as it is for me to write this, I can’t help but smile at the memories JB left with me. It is those memories that I thought of while attending his memorial service earlier today and throughout the gift of being able to speak about him in front of his family and friends.
I know that JB impacted my life as well as my organization’s life in so many ways. JB, I know you are listening, so I just wanted to say “Thank You” for including me in your life, “Thank You” for your smile and your positive attitude about life and “Thank You” JB, for teaching me many lessons in living as well as in fighting for one’s life.
I will truly morn Mr. John Brace, my friend and inspiration. JB’s lovely honest and beautiful spirit is and has been immersed into the “fighting spirit” that allows not only me personally but that of my key staff & volunteers to hit this disease head on and running. The EndBrainCancer Initiative has absorbed JB’s smile, his fierce brown eyes, and his laugh, which we can all “hear” as soon as we recall it. John, thank you for seeking me out, for being my friend, for encouraging me to reach out to others with you by my side. You will be with us every step of the way as we assist brain cancer patients and their loved ones in getting IMMEDIATE ACCESS to advanced specialists, neuro-surgeons, neuro-oncologists, principle investigators, advanced treatments and clinical trials.
In tribute to John, the End Brain Cancer Initiative would like to create the “JB Fund” which would focus on the creation of Educational, Awareness & Outreach materials related to new and emerging treatment options for GBM. Stay tuned for more information and developments!
Thank you John, for impacting the lives of so many. You are loved and missed …but you, my friend, will live on in so many ways.
Dellann Elliott Mydland