Brain tumor survivor gives hope through experience

By Bailey Buckingham

Having been diagnosed with a brain tumor 12 years ago could have spelled the end for Kyle resident Greg Cantwell. 

Cantwell was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme, a brain tumor, in 2004 and faced a five percent chance of surviving through the year. With advisement from his doctor and a lot of thought, Cantwell approved an extensive treatment plan that included what is known as a chemotherapy “cocktail.” 

But his battled with cancer instead was just the beginning of a life of hope, strength and a mission to help others. 

Fast-forward nearly 12 years later and Cantwell, who is cancer-free, founded Greg’s Mission, a non-profit that provides support, hope, education, resources and awareness to patients suffering from brain tumors, especially Glioblastoma Multiforme. 

“I believe I survived for a reason and that is to help others,” Cantwell said. “With the help that I didn’t have when I was diagnosed.” 

Before Cantwell launched Greg’s Mission, he began with an educational website to see how much of a need was out there. 

Within six months, the website received over 40,000 hits from around the world. That is when Cantwell knew his mission needed to continue.

Through Greg’s Mission, Cantwell has traveled all over the world helping patients and their loved ones through education and support. Cantwell has provided support to over 2,200 patients, families and caregivers from around the globe. He travels to be with patients and to speak at conferences to share his experience with this devastating disease. 

Cantwell operates 100 percent as a volunteer. He said he does not receive enough donations to be sustainable. He has made it his mission to increase awareness for brain tumors. 

“I’m available 24 hours, 7 days a week and I work 100 percent as a volunteer,” Cantwell said.

According to The National Brain Tumor Society, in 2015, an estimated 6,450 people in Texas will be diagnosed with a primary brain or other central nervous system tumor. It is estimated that 1,880 of those will be malignant. Approximately 913 people from Texas die annually due to a brain or other central nervous system tumor. 

After moving from Iowa to Hays County in 2015 with his wife, Lisa, Cantwell has continued his mission to spread awareness. He does so by traveling to visit patients in need, and volunteering at local hospitals including Texas Oncology. For local patients, he works out of his home or will drive wherever he needs to be. 

Lisa is also no stranger to illness. She suffers from cystic fibrosis and has had a liver transplant. Together, the two of them have beaten the odds. 

“She’s definitely my rock, we just give back and that’s what it is all about,” Cantwell said. 

Cantwell said even with as long as he has been helping patients, losing the friends he makes along the way never gets easier. 

“I become invested in them, we become really good friends,” Cantwell said. “It’s tough. I understand what the diagnosis means, I mean I do break down. Only 4.7 percent live past 18 months, that survivability rate is terrible.” 

The CURE media group has recognized Cantwell’s efforts by naming him a GBM Hero for the Neuro Oncology Conference in San Antonio 

Cantwell said he believes what he does provides patients and their famililes with a greater quality of life, hope, inspiration. He also provides them with all of the necessary options so they are able to make a treatment decision.

“I’m not a doctor, I just give my opinion through my past experiences,” Cantwell said. “Fifty percent is doctors and medication, 50 percent is you. I just want to help people stay positive and give them the support and education they need.”

 

Cantwell can be reached through his website www.gregsmission.org or to learn more about his story, visit his YouTube channel at youtu.be/r5J_oEQN8J0. 

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