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Ottawa woman turning tragedy into triumph with Slay Foundation

Laura Dill has also worked with Bruyère to develop the Designated Care Partner program, where caregivers become part of their loved ones care team, allowing them unrestricted visiting access while general visitation is suspended.
2020-11-17 slay foundation HGJ
Laura Dill was a caretaker for both of her parents when they were diagnosed with glioblastoma and continues to support families that are affected. Photo courtesy Laura Dill

Within a year, Laura Dill lost both of her parents to glioblastomas, and now she's working to raise awareness for the disease as well as improve the lives of families who are being affected.

Glioblastomas are the most common and aggressive type of malignant primary brain tumor, according to the Brain Tumour Registry of Canada.

Dill launched the Slay Foundation, as she says research has all but stalled for glioblastomas.

The mother of three explains it was a shock -- just as the news of her father’s diagnosis began to settle, she was celebrating a low-key birthday with her closest loved ones when things took another unexpected turn for the worse. 

“My mom had a seizure while I celebrated, what I feared would be and I was right, my last birthday with my dad. We had no idea she had anything wrong. We thought she was totally healthy. There was no sign of anything. She was then diagnosed with two glioblastomas.”

Dill further explains, “Gluoblastoma is terminal brain cancer that presents as a tumor. The tumor is deadly because it doesn’t have an exact margin. It’s not fully round. It’s full of tentacles. It’s almost star shaped with these tentacles that spread out across the brain. The tentacles are strings of cancer cells, so even if the bulk of the tumor is cut out, you’ve got all these strings of cancer all the way across to the other side of the brain. It’s a really ugly cancer.” 

Having become well acquainted with the hospital staff during the first two weeks that her father was receiving treatment, and after leaving with him on September 4, they were utterly shocked upon her return only three days later, especially when they discovered that it wasn’t for her father’s health, but this time she was there with her sick mother.

Even more shocking was the fact that both of her parents presented with tumours in the exact same location and of the exact same measurement. Dill says the medical professionals treating them had never seen anything like it in their careers. 

Dill soon found out she wasn’t only one dealing with one incredibly rare circumstance as glioblastoma affects four in every 100,000 Canadians, according to the Brain Tumour Registry of Canada, but add a global pandemic on top of it and you’ve got yourself something seriously stranger than fiction.

After being restricted from visiting her father for much of his stay in the hospital, Dill and her immediate family were permitted to be present during his final moments. 

This isn’t good enough though, says Dill. “All we got was a week of him being unconscious. You don’t get any quality time. You don’t get to feed them. You don’t get to care for them. You are given 72 hours.” 

In response to this, Dill worked with multi-site academic health care organization, Bruyère, to develop the Designated Care Partner program, where caregivers become part of their loved ones care team, allowing them unrestricted visiting access while general visitation is suspended.

It was important to expedite its launch, explains Dill, so that this was in place before the second wave of COVID-19 hit.  

The Slay Foundation, which has raised over $25,000 since its initial launch in February, is a culmination of Dill’s desire to spread awareness, connect with others in similar situations, and simply pay it forward. 

“The financial burden is a lot and you basically stop working when someone has this diagnosis because they become fully dependent. I wouldn’t have gotten through this last year if it wasn't for people raising money and supporting me. My hockey team put together a fundraiser and raised a ton of money and that carried me through the whole winter. And it allowed me not just to take care of my parents but to be there and spend the time with them without having to balance work. So that’s what I’m trying to give back.” 

For more information, and to buy tickets for Slay Foundation’s Christmas Adult Advent Calendar fundraising event, go to https://www.slayfoundation.ca

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