Participants Ban Together for One Cause: A Cure


Hundreds of people gathered outside the Seattle Center Saturday morning to take part in the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. The annual event not only raises money for research but also helps bring patients and families together for one cause – a cure. 

Carrying big signs and wearing colorful shirts declaring the name of a loved one at the cancer walk is like a parade of crusaders – each one battling to help find a cure while showing support for others dealing with the difficult disease.

“Nov. 4 was the day we first got the news that dad had a brain tumor,” said Maria Barrett.

Barrett was just one of 30 family members and friends walking as a part of the “Warriors 4 Dad” team in support of her dad, Ed Elston. In honor of Elston’s alma mater – Oregon State – the team decided to sport orange and black for the event. And despite his family’s best efforts to make things easier for Elston during the walk, Barrett says her dad was determined to take as many steps as he could on his own. 

“We got the wheelchair just for this weekend, and he wasn’t too excited about that idea,” she said. “We’re so proud of him. We’re so, so proud of him. This has been something none of us will ever forget.”

For those walking in honor of someone no longer here, many said it was that person’s strength which continued to move them, including a group of 40 walking for KOMO 4 News Anchor Kathi Goertzen. 

“In the springtime, Mom actually rounded us up and said – ‘Hey guys, I really want to do the Brain Cancer Walk’ – and we said – ‘Mom, you don’t have brain cancer, you have a benign tumor’,” said Alexa Jarvis, Kathi’s daughter. 

But that didn’t matter; Alexa says her mom wanted to come to the walk anyway, simply to show support. 

“It’s great to have someone come up and tell me that Kathi helped them get through,” said Rick Jewett, Kathi’s husband. 

Kathi’s family says supporting others, without always knowing she was doing it, was and is the spirit of Kathi. 

“It’s overwhelming for me,” said Elston. 

Fighting brain cancer – something with no known cure – takes research and hope, and Elston says he plans to be a part of both. 

Currently, there are more than 120 different types of brain tumors. All of the money raised from the walk goes toward patient care, advocacy and research happening in the Pacific Northwest.


The Inspirational Story of a UW-Bothell Student

UW-Bothell student, brain cancer survivor gears up for annual Walk

University of Washington Bothell student Anthony Hopkins will be participating in this Saturday

University of Washington Bothell student Anthony Hopkins will be participating in this Saturday’s Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. Hopkins, 21, had an egg-sized tumor removed from his brain when he was 16 and has been on a long road to full recovery ever since.



Hopkins, 21, continues long road to recovery after removing egg-sized tumor

For University of Washington Bothell junior Anthony Hopkins, the opportunity to participate in this Saturday’s Seattle Brain Cancer Walk represents the next chapter in his incredible success story.

Four years ago, just after his sophomore year of high school at Bishop Blanchet in Seattle, the Greenwood resident went into surgery at Swedish Hospital to remove an large tumor in his brain.

Since then, it’s been a long, hard road to recovery, but Hopkins hopes his story will inspire others similarly afflicted, to believe that they can beat the disease like he did.

“Showing that everybody has a second chance, and that anything’s possible,” said Hopkins on what participating in the Walk means to him. “And that once a cure is found, I won’t be the only one walking, there will be tons of people walking, survivors and patients.”



Hopkins’ symptoms of the tumor began at a very young age.

In fact, he was so young, that the diagnosis of brain cancer never even entered the equation.

“The first time I started having the symptoms, I was seven years old, and they said it must have been a migraine,” Hopkins remembered. “I came in two years later and they said it was low blood sugar, they told me to eat a bunch of almonds. My whole life I was eating almonds.”

As Hopkins progressed through grade school and middle school, however, his symptoms worsened.

He would forget how to speak, and have extremely high fevers of 103 degrees or more along with bouts of extreme fatigue and amnesia.

“If someone was talking to me, I’d forget everything they said in literally, one second,” Hopkins recalled.

Along with the frustration of being misdiagnosed for nine years, the shock of having cancer at the age of 16 was hard to take.

“I was like, ‘there has to be some kind of mistake,'” said Hopkins. “I can’t believe it’s this major.”

In June of 2008, the neurosurgical team at Swedish successfully removed an egg-sized tumor from Hopkins’ left temporal lobe, and Hopkins’ long process of physical and emotional healing began.



After the surgery, Hopkins was set to begin his junior year of high school, the most important year of a student’s prep education as far as getting into college.

While his teachers were understanding and did what they could to help the young man succeed, the memory loss he suffered made being a student much more difficult.

“I’d spend double my time studying, and it was really hard, because all the new memory you have goes in the left temporal lobe, and a giant chunk of that is gone,” he noted. “All I could do is try and push myself.”

Hopkins eventually graduated and was accepted into UW-Bothell, where the academics got even harder.

But the 21-year-old was ready for the challenge.

He took advantage of the school’s many resources and small class sizes to get the additional help he needed as he pursued a full courseload.

“The community and the teachers,” said Hopkins on what he enjoys most about being a Husky at UW-Bothell. “The teachers are really nice here… and you don’t have to fight through 25 TAs. You can get the information you need, and the tutors here really help me out because there’s some things I still can’t comprehend as easily as other people.”

Earlier this summer, Hopkins found out he got accepted into one of the most rigorous and demanding majors offered at UW-Bothell, Computer Software Systems (CSS), proving all of his hard work paid off.

“It requires a lot of memorization,” said Hopkins on studying in the CSS field. “It was definitely a lot of work I had to do, and learning styles I had to (draw) from.”



As a teen dealing with the health issues he had to face on a daily basis, it would have been easy for Hopkins to develop a cynical outlook on life.

Over time, his challenges had the exact opposite effect on him.

“It definitely has changed everything,” he said. “When they told me I had a brain tumor, and they said it was the size of an egg, I thought I was going to die. It’s kind of hard to explain unless you’ve been there, but you have to grasp every day as if it’s your last.”

He has also turned down special accommodations during classes, such as the ability to use notes or get extra time during exams.

“I don’t feel I necessarily want to do that,” he admitted. “That’s changing 16 years of my lifestyle, and I still have the confidence in myself I can do it. I proved to myself I could do it by getting into my major.”

At Saturday’s Brain Cancer Walk, which starts at Seattle Center’s Founders Court at 9 a.m., Hopkins said he wants to encourage others to keep fighting and tell people that, as his neurosurgeon Dr. Gwinn often told him, “everything’s going to be okay.”

He has also been very active in raising funds for the cause, sending out flyers around campus, using social media to promote awareness, and setting a personal fundraising goal of $1,000 to go towards brain cancer research, patient care, and finding a cure.

“I want to get everyone in this area connected, because it is a big deal,” said Hopkins on his efforts to spread the word around campus. “I just hope to see more people there every year – it keeps on expanding. The goal is to see the money go up each year.”

Above all, Hopkins’ ordeal has taught him never to take anything in his life for granted.

“You never know when you’re going to pass (on), and when you do, you might as well be happy,” he said. “I try not to focus on the negatives in life. If today’s going to be my last day, let it be great.”

UW-Bothell is a four-year undergraduate and graduate campus, located at 18115 Campus Way NE in Bothell. The campus enrolls approximately 3,300 students and offers programs in Business, Arts-IAS, Engineering (CSS), Science/Technology and Nursing. For more information, visit the website at

For more information on the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, visit


Photo courtesy of Something Larger campaign

Woodinville Man Fights Brain Cancer with Help of His Dog

September 17, 2012 | by Seattledogspot

In June of 2011, 62-year-old Steven Hawley had a bike accident and suffered a serious concussion.

He now considers it one of the luckiest days of his life. 

Steven Hawley and Joey
Steven Hawley and Joey


Steven had endured concussions before, and since he didn’t feel much pain after the accident he figured he would be fine after a few days.

But a week later, while driving to work at his insurance company in Woodinville where he had worked for over a decade, he suddenly lost his way even though he was only about 2 blocks from the office. 

That event convinced Steven something serious had happened, and unfortunately a CAT scan soon after that confirmed it – he had a brain tumor that would kill him in 2-3 weeks unless it was removed immediately.

That’s why Steven considers himself lucky to have had the bike accident – if it hadn’t happened, he would be dead now.

Almost immediately after his doctor discovered the tumor he was at Swedish Cancer Institute for brain surgery to remove it (Steven asked me to mention that his doctor Greg Foltz did a fantastic job).

The operation was a success, but since the tumor was deeply embedded in his brain, the doctors couldn’t remove it without causing some brain impairment.

After the operation, Steven’s short-term memory was seriously damaged. He also lost all of his peripheral vision so he could only see things directly in front of him.

Because of these problems, Steven had to quit work and give up driving. Bike riding was out too. Since his wife worked during the day, Steven was unable to get out much.

So within about a week, Steven:

  • found out he had brain cancer
  • had major brain surgery
  • found out that only 10% of people with brain cancer survive longer than 2 years
  • lost most of his short-term memory and all his peripheral vision
  • started 30 days of radiation treatment
  • had to quit the business he started
  • had to quit driving and bike riding
  • lost control of almost every aspect of his life


Joey's cuteness is overwhelming
Joey’s cuteness is overwhelming

Most people would have difficulty coping with so many major life changes, and Steven was no different, but he had something that helped him move forward – his dog Joey. 

Joey is a 5-year-old Border Terrier and a bundle of cute. After Steven let him out of his carrier, Joey bounded over to greet me andthen proceeded to take out every toy that Steven had carefully put away when I came in.

While Steven was perfectly pleasant during our visit until then, he definitely perked up a bit more when Joey came in the room.

After Joey played tug-of-war with me for a few minutes, he settled on the floor with a chew toy while Steven and I resumed talking.

When I asked Steven how Joey helped him get through the difficult period after the surgery, his face brightened as he said, “He gave me a reason to get up and out in the morning.”

With Joey at his side, Steven began walking daily, and now he walks 4 miles a day. Pretty impressive for someone who endured major brain surgery. He also rides a stationary bike at home.

And now that Steven has recently finished his year of chemotherapy, he wants to begin agility training with Joey,something they did together before the accident.

His goal is to compete with Joey at the Seattle Kennel Club’s All-Breed Show next March. He plans to start training with Joey at Mega Dogs in Woodinville soon.

Steven was eager to show me Joey’s weaving skills, and since he had weaving poles set up in the basement, he gave me a demonstation.

Not bad, right?

I could tell that practicing agility work with Joey will help Steven immensely – not only will it improve his mood, it will also help his coordination and motor skills.

But working with Joey on agility training isn’t Steven’s only project. He plans to participate in the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk this Saturday, September 22 “to 

Joey tries to get me to play tug-of-war
Joey tries to get me to play tug-of-war

help bring awareness to this terrible disease.” 

If you would like to make a contribution to Steven’s effort go, to the Walk’s website, click on the donate button, then click on the donate to a team or participant button, then put HAWLEY in the seach box to get to his fundraising page.

I encourage you to make a donation if you are able. Any kind of cancer is bad, but brain cancer is particularly insidious because the survival rate is so low and it destroys two of the most precious possessions we have – independence and memory.

As I noted earlier, only 10% of people with brain cancer survive longer than 2 years, but I think Steven will beat the odds because of his fantastic attitude.

When I asked him what advice he had for people in similar situations, he said:

  • Form a game plan
  • Get back on your feet
  • Live as normally as possible
  • Remain positive
  • Don’t let your disease define you

And having a dog like Joey will help you follow this advice. Dogs will not allow you to wallow in self-pity or isolate yourself from the world.

As Steven said, they “give (you) a reason for getting up and out in the morning.”

Good luck with your recovery, Steven. We look forward to seeing you in the 2013 Brain Cancer Walk!

‘They’re Still Here Because of the Ivy Center’

Submitted by Rose Egge, KOMO Communities Reporter
Monday, September 17th, 2012, 5:00am
'They're still here because of the Ivy Center'
Neurosurgeon Greg Foltz hugs brain cancer survivor Holly Zimmerman at 2011 Brain Cancer Walk.

Dr. Greg Foltz wasn’t always interested in being a brain surgeon. He was first a classically trained pianist at The Julliard School in New York. But while he was in college, a friend of Foltz’s died from brain cancer. Since then, the doctor has devoted his life to treating one of the most deadly forms of cancer.

The life expectancy of a person diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common form brain cancer, is only about 15 months, just a few months better than it was a century ago.

“We felt we needed to focus our efforts on coming up with better treatment options,” said Foltz.

In an effort to extend the life expectancy of brain cancer patients by as much as 5 years, Foltz is leading cutting-edge clinical trials at the Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at Swedish. To fund this life saving research, he has helped to organize Seattle’s only Brain Cancer Walkon September 22.

Foltz explains that one of the greatest challenges in treating brain cancer is that, while he can effectively remove tumors in 85 percent of cases, individual cancer cells left behind can be difficult to find and destroy.

In some cases, chemotherapy and radiation can kill these cells and keep new tumors from growing, but these treatments are incredibly harmful to the patient. Chemo causes hair loss, nausea, heart damage and can be too toxic for a patient to handle. Radiation can effect healthy portions of the brain and lead to secondary cancers.

Foltz is working on two clinical trials that could prevent the harmful side effects that come with chemo and radiation: the DCVax Brain Cancer Vaccine Trial and the Toca 511 Trial.

The Brain Cancer Vaccine Trial uses immunotherapy to improve the body’s ability to find and destroy cancer cells. The treatment is based on a theory that our bodies regularly create cancer cells but that tumors only grow when our immune system fails to destroy these cells. Immunotherapy effectively trains a patient’s immune system to destroy the cancer.

In this trial Foltz removes the patient’s tumor, preserving a sample of the cancer cells. Then, he removes some of the patient’s white blood cells and trains them to recognize specific characteristics of the cancer cells.

“It’s a lot like taking an attack dog and giving it clothing to recognize the scent of what it’s looking for,” Foltz said.

The white blood cells are then stimulated and injected back into the patient’s body to search for any remaining cancer cells and destroy them. In cases where immunotherapy is successful patients avoid chemotherapy and radiation. The only side effect Foltz has seen in his trial is a little redness around the injection site, similar to that of the flu vaccine.

“This is a more positive, healthier approach,” Foltz said. “We’re strengthening the patient’s own resistance to tumors. We’re utilizing a new approach, not just adding a different toxic treatment.”

This clinical trial is in stage 3. The next step is approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has already approved immunotherapy treatment of prostate cancer.

The Ivy center is also one of just eight institutions across the country participating in the Toca 511 trial.

Toca 511 is a virus engineered by Tocagen specifically to seek out tumor cells. After removing a brain tumor, Foltz injects this virus all around the brain. Healthy tissue is not affected as the virus only infects cancer cells, releasing an enzyme into them. Once the virus has had time to spread, the patient is given a second drug that converts that enzyme into a very potent chemotherapy that kills the cancer cells. Because healthy cells are not affected, this treatment also has none of the typical chemo side effects such as nausea or hair loss.

In just 2 years, Foltz hopes to be able to offer Toca 511 to all of his patients.

Neither of these clinical trials would be possible if not for research funding from sources like the Brain Cancer Walk.

Brain cancer survivor Kami Combes, 37, has participated in the walk since it first started 5 years ago.

“The changes I’ve seen in the past 5 years have been amazing,” Combes said.

While she has been cancer free for 5 years now, Combes says seeing the research being done at Ivy Center is comforting, just in case her cancer ever comes back.

“Should anything else happen I’m going to be a little less worried,” Combes said. “If this were to come back there might be different options.”

The walk has also allowed Combes to connect with other survivors.

“We have met people whose first diagnosis was pretty grim, but they’re still here because of the great work being done at the Ivy Center,” Combes said.

The 5th Annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk will take place on Saturday, September 22 at Seattle Center’s Founders Court. Registration can be done online until September 17, 5 p.m., and in person on event day. All walk proceeds go directly to patient care and research and every dollar raised is matched by $9 in grant funding.

How Dr. Greg Foltz Dedicated His Life to Brain Cancer and Why he Considers it an “Orphan Disease”

Twenty-five years ago brain cancer took the life of someone Greg Foltz was very close to.

“Her father was a neurosurgeon and the chairman of a university department. In the process of his grieving, he mentioned to me nothing really was being done about brain cancer and that what needed to happen was that someone needed to devote their life to this,” says Foltz.

Foltz was a classically-trained pianist, on his way to The Julliard School in New York City.

“I had a career change and decided I was going to do whatever I could to make a difference in the disease. I didn’t know how at the time.”

It takes 12 years to become a brain surgeon. That’s what he did.

FoltzDr. Foltz is now the director of a scientific lab at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle known as the Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment.

Foltz conducts research on genes in a tumor to better determine why some cancer cells grow back.

He also does about 300 brain surgeries a year. I watched as his precise, unfaltering hands removed a tumor from a person’s brain recently.

Foltz invited reporters to Swedish to see the work brain surgeons do, and to raise awareness about a disease that doesn’t receive a fraction of the public attention or funding as other cancers.

Brain cancer is considered an “orphan disease” in the medical community because of the relatively small number of patients affected.

About 22,000 people in the United States – 500 in Seattle – have heard the devastating sentence, “you have terminal brain cancer.”

That’s not a huge number, and that’s part of the problem.

Pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to finance studies involving a disease with such a short survival rate.

Brain cancer is also a sneaky disease, suddenly striking people who seem healthy.

A KIRO co-worker who was super-fit, Brad Perkins, died of brain cancer at the age of 53 a few years ago. Former KOMO TV anchor Kathi Goertzen recently died after a battle with brain tumors. A couple of weeks ago, Seattle civic leader Cheryl Chow announced she has brain cancer and does not have much time to live.

No one knows what causes brain tumors.

“I don’t even have allergies. Other than having two pretty easy caesarians I didn’t have anything to do with any doctors for any reason,” says Holly Zimmerman.

She was on a camping trip with her family last summer when she had a seizure. Later in trying to figure out what caused her problem, doctors discovered she had a brain tumor. Zimmerman underwent surgery, completed weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, and is optimistic she’ll be one of the few who beats brain cancer.

“I don’t think I will ever be out of the woods,” says Zimmerman, mother of two young children. “I’ve learned enough about brain cancer to know that one naughty cell can go off, wandering off, and create a new tumor.”

“Removing the tumor is easy,” says Dr. Foltz. “Determining why some cancer cells, which all our bodies produce every day, grow back is the difficult part. I’ve always thought we should be able to defeat this cancer which never leaves the brain, unlike other cancers that spread.”

While doctors have made progress in treating breast, colon and other cancers, the FDA has only approved three drugs to treat brain cancer in the past 35 years, and those drugs prolong the lives of patients by only a few months.