June 4, 2016 7:15 pm
Updated: June 4, 2016 9:06 pm

Calgarians with brain tumours thankful for Gord Downie’s public fight

WATCH ABOVE: very single day 27 Canadians are diagnosed with brain tumours. Like in the case of Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie, some of them are incurable. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, Calgary patients battling a similar diagnosis are thankful Downie is making his personal fight, public.


Hundreds of people came out to Calgary’s Edworthy Park to take part in the 22nd annual Brain Tumour Walk Saturday.

They came out to raise awareness about the disease that grows silently.

Researchers say brain tumours are challenging to treat, so there is an urgent need for new therapies.

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“It’s a devastating disease,” Susan Marshall, Chief Executive Officer with the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, said.  “There are 120 types of brain tumours, from very non-malignant, to very aggressive malignant tumours. People live a long life or have a very short journey. It’s a disease that affects children and people of all ages.”

One of the participants at the Calgary walk was Gerry Ursulak of Calgary.  He was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour last summer. He says an event like the Brain Tumour Walk does wonders for people battling the disease.

“It just fills you with courage to know that other people are struggling with the same disease that I have,” Ursulak said, who is now going through chemotherapy. “It just fills you up to know that you’re not alone.”

“Just  a hello or a look, a hug. You just know the people who are going through the same thing. For me personally, that support has got me to this point right now.  I’m the luckiest guy in the world. For the friends and family and work that I have, it’s just unbelievable. The whole day with all  the volunteers, it’s amazing.  I’m blessed,” Ursulak said.

Last month, Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie announced that he was diagnosed with glioblastoma in December – the most common and aggressive type of tumour to start in the brain.  He has since undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

READ MORE: Gord Downie and brain cancer: What you need to know about the Tragically Hip singer’s terminal disease

According to Downie’s doctor, the tumour which  is located in the left temporal lobe of his brain, is impossible to completely remove and will recur.

Brain tumour researchers say there are some longer term survivors but the likelihood of living two years after a diagnosis of glioblastoma is only 25 per cent.

“We couldn’t thank Gord Downie enough for being so courageous and bringing forward his story and sharing it with his fans and with all Canadians, because it really has put a spotlight on the devastation that brain tumours can have for someone,” Marshall said at the Calgary event.

READ MORE: Tragically Hip tickets: Fans scramble to snap up seats for final tour

Unlike some cancers, which are linked to lifestyle and diet, it’s unclear what triggers glioblastoma.  What makes it incurable is that it’s rapidly growing and returns in an average of seven months.

Ursulak says he’s anything but a rock star, but he came to Edworthy Park with his own fan base of around 80 supporters.  Despite his life-changing diagnosis, he remains upbeat.

“It’s been just an unbelievable experience to have the support that I’ve had today and not only today, but ever since my first diagnosis. It’s been amazing how family and friends can lift you up and take you to where you’ve never been, to fight.  So I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Ursulak added.

Brain tumours are the leading cause of cancer death in children under the age of 20.  Although as many as 60 per cent of children with brain tumours will survive, they are often left with long-term side effects.

An estimated 55,000 Canadians are living with a brain tumour.

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