“ Admitting that you need help is not a sign of weakness. You are not a statistic! You should be treated as a person and not as a diagnosis.
Greg Cantwell is a glioblastoma multiform brain cancer mAss Kicker! Greg is very involved in the world of Oncology. He is currently a member of the Iowa Cancer Consortium and helped to write the Iowa Cancer Plan for 2012 to 2017. He is a very accomplished brain tumor mentor and inspirational speaker. He is a mentor for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, Cleveland Clinic, MD Anderson, and Imerman Angels. He has spoken at the 2015 American Society of Neuroradiology Conference, the pharmaceutical company Merck’s 2013 Science Day, EMD Serano’s 2012 Brain Cancer Survivors conference in Boston, the Chris Elliot Fund’s 2012 End Brain Cancer Conference, the 2010 University of Iowa Psycho Social Neuro Science Conference, the 2012 University of Iowa Neuroscience Nursing Conference in 2012. We are very honored to have Greg share his story with us!
mK: Thanks for doing this Greg! Tell us… how did you find out about your diagnosis?
GC: I was diagnosed with Gilioblastoma Multiform (GBM) in Oct 2004 after presenting to the hospital with a Grand mal seizure. Had a biopsy which confirmed the diagnosis.
mK: Whoa! What were your symptoms?
GC: None… only the seizure in the middle of the night.
mK: Why are you involved in brain tumor advocacy?
GC: I know what I didn’t have when I was diagnosed… that was another survivor to give me a heads up on what to potentially expect. Even the social worker didn’t have any information. I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to talk to me if they choose. I started Greg’s Mission to provide support, hope, education, current resources and
awareness to patients diagnosed with a brain tumor as well as their families and caregivers through phone, email, Skype or FaceTime and Personal visits.
mK: So what motivates you?
GC: Just knowing that I am helping the patient, family and caregivers.
mK: Let’s get to know you better… When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
GC: People ask me that all the time. I can honestly say that I never felt depressed or questioned that fact that I will survive. I knew the odds were stacked against me but I set out to beat those odds and prove the doctors and the textbooks wrong.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
GC: My sense of humor is to be funny and laugh a lot and to make other people laugh. Laughing has been said to increase the immune system and going through chemotherapy your immune system needs to top notch. I have been known to cry when someone I have helped and become friends with throughout their diagnosis passes away. My diagnosis has given me the opportunity to meet some great people and become life long friends with their families and friends.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
GC: Maybe not interesting but for sure the thing that people would say they never expected would be to speak in front of people. I would never be caught doing that in high school or college it just wasn’t me. But now I suck it up and do it because people need to hear me story. People need to have hope and be inspired to fight on and they need to have the will to survive.
mK: What was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor?
GC: Knowing that I am unique and that I needed to understand that 95% of those who I help will unfortunately not have the same outcome that I had. I believe that everyone has the opportunity to survive it’s just up to a greater being. I will unfortunately lose many friends but if I can make their life better in some way than that’s what counts.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
GC: Food is my guilty pleasure. The reason I say food is because I love to travel and love to try all types of cuisine. I try to watch my weight and what I eat for health reasons but eating what I want when I want ( within reason ) is not something I am willing to give up. Some people say that you shouldn’t eat red meat. That to me is something I can’t or won’t do. I love my steak and burgers. I will say that I very rarely sweets, desserts or add sugar to anything. I gave up soda all together it doesn’t matter what kind I don’t drink it.
mK: If you could have a one “do-over” for anything that you did in life, what would you do over?
GC: I guess I would have liked to focus more on playing soccer when growing up. Sure I played it throughout my school years but I would have liked to have a shot at making it a career.
mK: What do you like to do in your spare time?
GC: Traveling. I love to travel the world visit new places and cultures.
mK: What are you up to now?
GC: Running Greg’s Mission, volunteering at NBTS and cancer centers and speaking around the country.
mK: Very cool Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
GC: Everyone is different. Find a doctor that is proactive not reactive. Get all the treatment options and research them so that you can make an educated decision on what’s best for you and your family. You have to be your own advocate. Call Greg’s Mission. I am here to help you 24 hours a day 7 days a week!
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
GC: “Staying positive can be hard at times, but you have to focus on what you believe your outcome will be. I am going to kick cancer’s butt! Stay strong, get rest when you need it and call on your friends and family for support. Admitting that you need help is not a sign of weakness. You are not a statistic! You should be treated as a person and not as a diagnosis”
Greg Cantwell: Very proactive brain tumor advocate, travel junkie, a “could-have-been” soccer star, foodie, inspirational speaker, and driven glioblastoma multiform thriver. Check out Greg’s Mission when you get the chance. Thanks for doing this Greg and please keep in touch! We definitely support everything you are doing!