Our Story


In January 2014, my grandmother, Dorothy, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, and on February 27, 2014, she lost her battle. For my grandmother it was quick. For her family and friends, however, those weeks that followed her diagnosis were unbearable. Watching her go from a feisty, vibrant woman, my grandfather’s sunshine, to being bedridden and in hospice was the hardest thing we have ever done.

The months that followed her death were difficult. I myself found myself just “getting through the day”. You see, I worked in marketing at UPMC CancerCenter, partner with University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), for eight years. Every day I was at work I was walking down the hallway to get to my office where I had my last lucid conversation with my gram. I knew that something needed to happen to snap me back to the feisty woman I am, apples do not fall far from the tree, but I was at a loss.

That was until I met Tom and Barb Rajchel March 2015. Through a neurosurgical oncologist at work, I was introduced to this dynamic couple that wanted to plan a 5K to raise awareness for brain cancer. My colleague asked me if I would connect them with the UPCI Development Office, so they could get more information on how to donate the proceeds to help fund brain cancer research at UPCI. Of course I was very willing to make the introduction, but in the back of my head, I wanted to help them too. But was it too soon? What if they lived on the other side of the river (LOL)? Turns out they lived in White Oak five minutes from grandparents. To me-this was a no brainer. I was in. And I even convinced my Aunts to join the planning committee.

And then our Brain Cancer Awareness 5K began to grow. We found awesome sponsors. Friends and family offered to help. We were contacted by brain cancer patients, friends, and family, both locally and from out of town, and they too wanted to help. Even though event planning was new to us all, I’m proud to say that in our first year we were able to donate $25,000 to support brain cancer research at UPCI.

And now our 2nd annual Brain Cancer Awareness 5K is Saturday. It is hard to believe that has been more than a year since my grandmother, Dorothy, was taken from us, but I’m here today to announce to brain cancer that this feisty woman is back, and I have an army of determined committee members made up of patients, friends, and families, all with the same goal - raising awareness and funds to support brain cancer research at UPCI. And we will not be reckoned with. Game on!

And a special note to all the caregivers out there, you are unsung heroes in my eyes. The love you have in your hearts for your family and friends is unmatchable. You are forever in my thoughts.

— with Dorothy J Pollack and Joseph M Pollack.