Pittsburgh’s 1st Brain Cancer Awareness 5k to Benefit UPCI

By: Courtney Caprara

About 23,000 people are diagnosed each year with brain cancer in the U.S. And about 14,000 people will die of the disease each year. Despite these startling numbers, many people remain unaware of brain cancer and the warning signs, something the organizers of Pittsburgh’s first Brain Cancer Awareness 5K hope to change.

brain2Amyjo McDade, a senior communications manager for UPMC CancerCenter, regularly works at Hillman Cancer Center helping to inform the community about the cancer resources available in the area. Earlier this year, her grandmother, Dorothy Pollack, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, a treatment resistant form of brain cancer. Suddenly, McDade found herself visiting Hillman for reasons outside of work.

“Up until January 2014, I had been very fortunate to not have had to watch my family battle any serious illnesses in my lifetime,” McDade said. “In February, my grandmother lost her battle surrounded by her loving family. I was devastated to say the least.”

In March, a neurosurgical oncologist approached McDade about helping to connect Barb Rajchel, a current UPMC brain cancer patient, and her family with the foundation that supports the Unversity of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) to organize a brain cancer fundraising and awareness event. McDade found out that Barb and her husband, Tom, lived in White Oak, just minutes from the place her grandmother had called home, and decided to help out not only on a professional level but personally as well.

By April, McDade and Tom Rajchel were leading an organizing committee of family and friends to plan the Brain Cancer Awareness 5K. All proceeds from the event will be donated to UPCI, where research is being conducted to find treatments and cures for brain cancer.

“At our first meeting, we discussed how many people we would get. I said 50, Tom said 200, but my mom said over 300. We laughed at her. Now she is the one laughing. We had more than 300 participants register,” McDade said.

The Brain Cancer Awareness 5K is scheduled for Aug. 23 in White Oak Park. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.