‘I was made’ for the fight against glioblastoma

Celtics

“We are survivors who need help and, unfortunately, we are not there yet.”

Heather Walker, Celtics VP of Public Relations, participates in a Pan-Mass Challenge benefiting the Dana-Farber Institute. Courtesy of 13 Photography

You won’t find anyone more prepared for an all-out promotional blitz than Heather Walker.

“I’m used to doing radio now,” Walker admitted to Greeley Tribune.com in a recent interview. “So many radio interviews. And I just got chemo too, and I get a little — you get chemo brain. It’s like a fog on your brain.

“So. It’s great, isn’t it?”

Walker, Celtics’ VP of public relations and a longtime fixture with the franchise, knows how to lighten the mood when she talks about her diagnosis — stage 4 glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. Make no mistake, though: While Walker is upbeat and easy to talk to, she treats her position with every reasonable amount of gravity.

“As soon as we can [find a cure]We can help as many people as we can, but if we don’t get there for a long time, there will be many people who have unfortunately died,” she said.

“Because it’s a very deadly disease.”

diagnosis

Last July, Walker began experiencing debilitating headaches. Two days later his mother took him to the hospital. There, doctors found a mass on her brain, and the prognosis was poor: glioblastoma is a deadly and uncommon form of cancer with a poor prognosis.

The doctors swung into action immediately. After two days of surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Omar Arnaut managed to remove the tumor.

“And that left me with hair too,” Walker enthused. “I came out of the hospital and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, how did you do that?'”

That was the start of a brutally uphill battle, but Walker overcame his initial hurdles. A few months later, in the middle of an interview With WCVB anchor Maria Stefanos Last year, Walker learned that he had been approved for a clinical trial of a vaccine called Neovax designed to fight glioblastoma. her doctor Dana-Farber Cancer InstituteDavid Reardon was the senior author of a study examining the response to a personalized “neoantigen vaccine” for each patient.

“That’s what’s going to save my life,” one emotional Walker said in the interview.

A few months later, there’s good news: Neovax has done a good job. Walker requires a bi-weekly infusion of the drug, which is designed to identify the cancer and fight it when it comes back.

So far, hasn’t happened.

“It’s sad. There are nine shots and it doesn’t feel good, and it’s an incredible process,” Walker said. “These doctors are absolutely amazing, what they’ve done with me and other patients is just incredible. So it feels really good to be a part of it.”

Grant

Glioblastoma is underfunded and, like many diseases, much of the research money depends on philanthropy.

“There was a study in Germany that was helping people with glioblastoma, and it went away because it was low,” Walker said. “Why is this happening? It shouldn’t happen. We are survivors who need help and, unfortunately, we are not there yet.”

Still: “We’ll get there soon,” Walker said. “I have incredible people, I have a lot of friends, the Greeley Tribune Celtics have been amazing, and we are so lucky to be in a position where we can raise money and talk to people about it.”

Walker certainly has a lot of influential friends – a business advantage of having worked for the Celtics since 2006. Right after her diagnosis, Marcus Smart – who has also lost both his mother and brother to cancer – texted her a video.

“Hey Heather, it’s Marcus,” he began, if there was any confusion. “Just wanted you to know we’ve been thinking about you, we love you, keep fighting. We’re here with you. We love you.”

Meanwhile, Walker was the team’s Hero Us during Kevin Garnett’s jersey retirement ceremony. When he saw her, Garnet wrapped her in a big hug.

“And then of course I started crying. He was like, ‘What are you crying for?'” Walker said with a laugh, as he imitated Garnet’s well-known raucous rhythm.

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Heather Walker hugs Kevin Garnett. (AP Photo/Steven Sene)

The Celtics as an organization have invested a lot of money for his cause. Walker has raised a staggering amount – over $300k, with a sizable donation coming from the team, which he believes will bring the total closer to $500k.

Still, between $3 million and $5 million are needed for clinical trials, according to Walker’s estimates. So while she is deeply grateful for all the donations she has made to date, she is clear about the need for more.

“We’re just not at the point where we can say, ‘Hey we can give this to everybody and it’s going to fix you,'” Walker said. “It’s the work of Dr. Reardon and Dana-Farber, and they’re working really hard to fix it, but they need money, and they need risk to get there.”

Luckily for Dr. Reardon, Dana-Farber, and anyone trying to battle glioblastoma, they have Heather Walker.

Selected

Walker has an urgency to the fight that goes well beyond his own diagnosis. After all, she has been a part of the fight against cancer for a long time.

When Walker was 17, she lost her father to leukemia. His mother is a breast cancer survivor. When she received her diagnosis, she connected online with others living with the disease.

“Many people know about a lot of other cancers, but they are not aware of glioblastoma,” she said. “And it’s an issue for people like us who have it and people need to be aware of it.”

After being diagnosed, Walker worked with family and friends to start #move4heather campaign, The gist is simple: Do something that inspires you, then tag two friends on social media. The goal is to raise awareness and funds for glioblastoma research.

“It’s definitely going in the right direction, but we can’t stop until we get to the end,” Walker said.

Walker is ready to keep going. Over the years, she has been involved in the Pan-Mass Challenge – a Bicycle Tour Fundraiser That Donates 100 Percent The money raised from his rider went directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Greeley Tribune. One year, she was part of a team that traveled from Provincetown to Greeley Tribune—an effort that helped raise $80,000 for cancer research.

Last weekend, Walker participated in the Pan-Mass Challenge again with a close friend—cycling across Fenway Park on a stationary bike. He spoke to the riders before the incident.

“I felt like I had to do this and I was put in this place to help people treat cancer,” she told Greeley Tribune.com. “It feels right. Even talking about it right now gives me goosebumps. I just felt like I had to be here.”

“Unfortunately, I have been selected for brain cancer – stage 4 glioblastoma.”

It’s a lot of weight, but when you talk to Walker, you can’t help but feel that she may be right. After all, she is exceptionally good at publicity. She knows many powerful people. She knows how to direct media attention to a worthy cause that is in dire need of media attention (to that end, you can donate to Heather’s Cause Hereif you have the means).

Maybe she is the chosen one.

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