Tag Archives: CTBTA

A Bottle Of White, A Bottle of Red, Perhaps A Bottle Of Rosé Instead?

I’ve talked a lot about the value of support groups and the impact that friends can have on your recovery along the way, but what I have yet to do, until now, is to provide some insight on my new group of friends and support – the people that make up the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance (CTBTA).logoAs some background, the CTBTA was founded in 2006 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  The organization has raised over $1.5 million for brain tumor research, “Patient Assistance Funds” for families in financial need and specialized medical equipment for improvement treatments.

As a non-profit organization, the CTBTA is dedicated to offering support and compassion to those affected by brain tumors.  Each member of the Board has a very personal connection to brain tumors as we are all survivors or caregivers.  As a group, our mission is to “to raise awareness of brain tumors, provide hope and support for others affected by brain tumors and raise money to support and advocate for cutting-edge research for better treatments and a cure.

Proudly, I am one of 13 Board members and together we collaborate to better the lives of those afflicted with a brain tumor.  As the new guy in the organization, I cannot profess that I know everything there is to know, but I have witnessed the dedication of every board member in their efforts to hold events designed to promote awareness and raise funds to research the cure.  And as a non-profit, we work to raise money and donate proceeds raised during  our events in support of various organizations with one goal in mind – to find the cure.  The CTBTA has proudly supported various entities including the Yale Brain Tumor Center, Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Voices Against Brain Cancer and Weill Cornell Medical College.  What an honor to be a part of something so rewarding.

Though the diagnosis of a brain tumor or brain cancer is certainly scary, as an organization, we certainly know how to make it fun.  Throughout the course of the year, the CTBTA holds numerous events including a golf tournament, a trivia challenge, the Path of Hope (a 5K walk held at Hammonassett Beach State Park), Laughter on the Brain and the Wines of March to be held on March 14th from 7:00-10:00pm at the Mark Twain House.  The link includes all the details that you need to know, but to wet your appetite, Cassidy Hill Vineyard of Coventry is providing the wine and Shebeen Brewing Company of Wolcott is providing the beer!

We do so many great things, but what makes the CTBTA stand out in the world of non-profits is our personal connection to the cause and commitment to bettering the lives of those in need.

You can learn more about our organization at http://www.ctbta.org/.

Let The Music Do The Talking

With everything now behind me, I can now look forward to everything else in store for 2015.  And today, I wish to share with you the early details for our second annual Playing for the Cure: Brainstormin’ benefit concert for brain tumor research.

My mission and goal is simple – I want to spread the word on brain tumors to educate with the hope that my story gives hope to those who are awaiting treatment or currently recovering.  I hope that through this blog, our concert, through The Cusano Family Fund to Benefit Brain Tumor Research (a non-profit corporation which I am working to establish for the benefit of the Yale Brain Tumor Center), and through my work with the CTBTA, awareness will be brought to this very important cause and money will be raised to assist doctors and researchers in finding the cure.

So, mark your calendars for Saturday, September 19th!  My family and I are pleased that The Ballroom at the OuterSpace in Hamden, CT will again be hosting the event and hope to surpass what we did last year.  We hope that you will come enjoy the music of Broca’s Area and other great acts with one common goal in mind: raising money to aid in finding the cure.  Details regarding the event time are still being worked out and will be announced as soon as it is known.  Rest assured though that there will be great lineup of acts and of course, food, drinks and raffles.

My brother Stephen formed Broca’s Area with his classmates at the Hartt School of Music and they have some great things happening right now.  On March 26, 2015, there will be a CD release party at Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford beginning at 9:00PM.  The album contains five original compositions, all of which I’ve had the privilege of hearing and each song is better than the previous.  

With you, together we are making a difference in the lives of those who are living with a brain tumor and the survivors.  But as a family, we wanted to do more.  So for every CD that Broca’s Area sells, a royalty will be paid to the CT Brain Tumor Alliance (the “CTBTA”).  The CTBTA’s mission is “to raise awareness of brain tumors, provide hope and support for others affected by brain tumors and raise money to support and advocate for cutting-edge research for better treatments and a cure.”  Please come to Black Eyed Sally’s to support the cause and help in this fight!

I am very pleased in witnessing how my family has rallied around my battle – for being able to take something so terrible and turning it into something positive.  Some people tell me that I am inspiration, but if not for my family and the care that I received along the way, none of this would be possible.

Better Things

As fast as the Christmas season came and the day itself went by, the season is now over and everyone is looking to the next big day – we’re all coming to grips.  New York City is preparing for its New Year’s Eve celebrations, students and teachers are enjoying their breaks and stores are disassembling their Christmas displays and putting up Valentine’s Day displays.  Me?  With each passing day, I’m preparing myself for surgery on January 8th and it begins with my pre-admission appointment on Friday.

Since finding out two weeks ago, I’ve remained in good spirits but find my thoughts drifting off from time to time.  No matter how hard I try not to think about it and remain focused on whatever task I’m doing, I constantly get reminded that this is really happening again;  whether it’s going to work and trying to get through the day without getting lost in my thoughts and completing short-term disability paperwork or trying to enjoy Christmas day, a day that typically brings so much joy and serenity.  At least I received plenty of gifts to occupy my time while I’m home recovering.  Yes, looking forward.

2015 brings new hope and promise and I am excited to see where life takes me next.  With a new position at work…to vacations with Ashley…to a clean bill of health.  But there is something else that I am very excited about – I was recently elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the CT Brain Tumor Alliance.

When I reached out to the CTBTA earlier this year, I did so because I wanted to help.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve felt that my true purpose in this life is to provide support, hope and help to those affected by a brain tumor.  I served on the first annual “Path of Hope: A 5K Journey for the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance” executive committee and assisted in the planning and successful execution of the day.  I’ve also brainstormed with the Executive Director and board members regarding implementing a patient-caregiver connection so that nobody has to go through this alone.   However, at no point in time did I expect this honor.  When I accepted, I notified the Board that I was honored and humbled and cannot wait to get started – and that’s exactly how I feel.  Unfortunately, I need to wait.   The first meeting is one week after my surgery and I will likely be unable to attend.  But then come February, I’ll be ready to go and eagerly awaiting my opportunity to share some ideas that I have with the Board and hope for their approval.

So until then, I’ll wait and keep positive.  I fully believe that the procedure will go well and the tumor will at long last be 100% gone. So I’m going to ring in 2015 as the beginning of the rest of my life.  I’ll get rid of the monster in my head for once and for all, I’ll return to the office in my new position and I’ll also be an integral part of the CTBTA.  Great things are on the horizon.

As The Kinks sang and which is my motto at the moment “forget what happened yesterday, I know that better things are on the way.”

Tears in Heaven

Last night, while I took my dog to the backyard, I noticed how clearly I could see the stars.  A night sky like that lends to a lot of thinking.

I had a new blog written for you all this week, but to be honest, I just couldn’t post it at this time.  There are too many thoughts and emotions swirling through my mind currently and I’ve instead decided to briefly share them.

Most of you have heard the news of Brittany Maynard, the 29 year-old woman who ended her life with dignity and courage in the face of terminal brain cancer.  Or the story of Lauren Hill, the 19 year-old NCAA basketball player who, despite having months to live, scored in her very first game.  And lastly, here in Connecticut a young girl by the name of Nina Poeta who lost her battle to brain cancer.

These are all extraordinarily tragic stories that have, quite frankly, broken my heart.  I thought about my time being “locked” in my body and I remember thinking that if I would never recover from it, that I would not want to live. I understand Brittany’s choice.   I remember my dad letting me drive myself to rehab when the doctors cautioned me against it.  It brought me such joy and hope to accomplish that, so I can almost feel Lauren’s excitement when that ball made its swish noise.   And my family’s pain when they thought I might not survive – my heart hurts for Nina ‘s loved ones.

The bright side is that they have brought brain tumors to the forefront – a place they usually don’t see.  I pray that this is only the beginning in spreading awareness of the devastation brain tumors can cause and the research that is so terribly needed.  There are so many suffering whose stories we don’t hear about.  Maybe it’s time that we do and reach out.  Here in Connecticut, we have the CTBTA working tirelessly to better the lives of those living with this disease. Without the support of the hard-working people who organized and run the CTBTA to raise funds for prevention and treatment, finding the cure someday would be impossible.  Hopefully, other support groups follow the lead and someday, every person suffering with a brain tumor has someone to turn to.

When my dog finally pulled on the leash, I snapped out of my thoughts but not before looking up and thanking those lucky stars of mine.

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

In the past week, I’ve done some thinking.  Okay, that’s a lie – I’ve done a lot of thinking.  Mostly about that bright spot on my MRI and what it could possibly mean.  Is it tumor activity or is it radiation necrosis?  Only time will tell so until December, I must let it go and move forward with my life.

And as I move forward and try to put my ordeal in my past, I have become involved with the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance (CTBTA).  As you saw in my last post (The Path of Hope), I am now a part of the CTBTA.  This past year, I reached out to the organization because I wanted to help, wanted to share my story and do what I can to better the lives of those who are suffering today.   A brain tumor can be debilitating but nobody should have to suffer through the ups and downs alone.  What’s more is that with the collective efforts of enough people passionate for this cause, together we join forces to raise awareness and to find the cure.IMG_0711

Sure, I went to law school and earned my law degree.  But my battle with my brain tumor has left me unable to pass the bar exam and for reasons that I previously discussed and now dealing with the bright spot in my brain, I would not even contemplate trying again.  More importantly though, working within the brain tumor community to provide support and provide fundraising efforts to finding the cure is my passion.  As a result, the sting of defeat four years after graduating and still being unable to practice law has been tamed and honestly, I am okay with how my cards have been dealt.

I am constantly being told that I am always smiling, always pleasant.  Even on those days where everything goes wrong and I just want to scream, I take a step back and reflect on how fortunate I am.  When you go through a life event such as what I went through, or any person with a life-threatening illness for that matter goes through, you realize how great life truly is.  For me, I realized this years ago and finally chose the CTBTA as the organization that I would involve myself with to share my life experiences and enjoy the same semblance of happiness with fellow brain tumor survivors.

Not only did the diagnosis scare me.  It also made me more aware of life and how we should live.  It made me smarter.  It made me brighter. Literally and physically.

The Path of Hope

Today was the “1st Annual Path of Hope: A 5K Journey To Benefit The Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance” at Hammonasset State Park. Despite my MRI results this past Friday,  the sun was shining, the air was brisk and the atmosphere was great and it was a reason to celebrate.  I felt so fortunate to be surrounded by my family, friends (both old and new) and to talk with other brain tumor survivors, patients and caregivers on this day.  When I see families like mine and hear of stories similar to what I went through, it gives me a sense of knowing that our everyday problems that we complain about are not so significant.  It was a great day and I am happy that I got involved with such a great organization.

I served on the Walk Committee and was asked to say a few words and offered the opportunity to play my song, if I wanted to.  I was honored and humbled by this offer and was very happy to share my story with others to serve as inspiration and hope for those undergoing this terrible diagnosis.

Fortunately, Ashley captured the moment on video and I am sharing it here.  Ironically however, my song was “interrupted” yet again.  Enjoy!